Settefrati: a medieval village in the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise

The medieval village of Settefrati, located on a pre-Apennine mountain in the east of the Comino Valley within the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise, is characterized by a circular layout and a high tower that dominates the landscape. Built on the remains of an ancient pre-Roman settlement called “Vicus”, the village took its name from the Benedictine monks who wanted to honor the seven sons of Saint Felicita killed during the persecution of Christians in Rome in 164 AD.

From ancient populations to the Christian worship of the Madonna of Canneto

The ancient Oscha and Umbra populations settled in the area that now constitutes the municipality. In particular, the Volsci, Aurunci, Equi, and Sanniti found the high Comino Valley an ideal place to meet.

The first historical era, between the 5th and 6th centuries BC, saw the worship of the Goddess Mefite and a religious center near the sources of the Melfa River in the Canneto Valley, with a temple dedicated to the goddess. Recent discoveries have confirmed the existence of the temple.

The oldest settlement in the area that is now the historic center was the city of Vicus, founded after the destruction of Cominium by the Romans in 293 BC. During Roman rule, the Canneto Valley remained a meeting place for the populations of the Upper Sangro and Lower Lazio, and an important religious center, as evidenced by the continued importance of the Sanctuary-Oracle of the Goddess Mefite.

In the 5th century AD, the name of Vicus was changed to Settefrati (abbreviated from Seven Brothers) and the temple near the sources of the Melfa passed from pagan worship to Christian worship of the Madonna of Canneto. Since then, it has remained an important religious center for the communities of the Lazio, Abruzzo, Molise, and Campania regions.

From the Romans to the Saracens: Settefrati’s history of domination and raids

After the Romans, there were invasions by the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Lombards, as well as frequent raids by the Saracens. The area was owned by the Abbey of San Vincenzo and the Abbey of Montecassino from the 4th to the 12th century, under the control of the Benedictine monks.

Settefrati under the influence of the Benedictine monks

With the weakening of the power of the Benedictines, the territory of Settefrati was governed by different feudal families during the subsequent Norman, Swabian, Angevin and Kingdom of Sicily domains. This period is associated with most of the remains of the fortifications still present on the rock of Settefrati.

In the 15th century, the center of Settefrati was hit by numerous lootings and destructions by Aragonese militias.

In 1654, a devastating earthquake destroyed much of the inhabited center, which was then temporarily abandoned due to the plague of 1656.

Most of the current buildings date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, but many buildings still retain the original structures and medieval architectural details. There are also remains of bastions and a 12th-13th century tower, as well as remains of previous walling, which could be pre-Roman in age.

During the period of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the territory of Settefrati was governed by a feudal system that hindered agricultural development. The poor conditions of the peasants also favored the spread of banditry until the early 20th century.