History of Massa Lubrense

History of Massa Lubrense

According to ancient historians, from the suggestive coasts of the Lubrense territory the Sirens saw the passage of the ships of Ulysses, who would have founded the famous temple of Athena there. The area was home of the mythical Sirens, from which the primitive toponym of Sirenusion,

Beyond the legend, the alleged Aborigines of the area were two peoples of Italic origin: the Ausoni and the Osci. An inscription discovered a few years ago at the eastern landing of Punta Campanella is in Oscan language.

With the formation of a Greek colony, the very name of the temple, Athenaion, went on to indicate the whole extreme tip of the peninsula. However, the area retained strong Hellenistic characters even in Roman times, when it was called Promontorium Minervae, a name that appears on the Tabula Peutingeriana ( IV century), next to the first graphic representation of the temple.

Only in the first century, the Roman Empire managed to establish the Latin element, with the arrival of eminent patricians who came to spend idleness and holiday in sumptuous residences.

In those times there were no inhabited centers of considerable importance, but it is to remember the presence of veterans of Augustus as assignees of pieces of land to be cultivated. Meanwhile, the first social aggregations took shape, which hardly created other activities parallel to the agricultural ones, while remaining the latter absolutely predominant. The first residential nucleuses rose which later gave life to the farmhouses called villages, and finally hamlets, which today, certainly much more substantial in terms of extension and number of inhabitants, form the socio-administrative structure of the Municipality.

The name of Massa appears after the short Lombard domination (VI century), but it had to pass the time to establish itself definitively. Massa from mansa, a Lombard voice that precisely indicated a place suitable for cultivation. This interpretation is the most reliable among the various etymologies supported by some authors. The adjective publica (938) was added to the name of Massa to mean a state property, a public countryside, evidently one of those belonging to the Sorrento state. The Lubrensis attribute, proper to the episcopate, replaced the publica one around 1306. Lubrense, that is of La Lobra, (delubrum = temple), cathedral church that stood on the beach of Fontanella. Together with the adjective, the municipality assumed the revered image of the Virgin of La Lobra as its emblem. Ordinarily the name of Massa without adjectives refers to what was the farmhouse of the cathedral, currently referred to as the center or capital.

Massa Lubrense was part of the Duchy of Sorrento with mixed fortunes until the advent of the Norman kingdom. It began his emancipation under the Swabians, establishing itself in civitas.

In 1273 its citizens, mostly Ghibellines, procured the reprisal of Carlo D’Angiò, who reincorporated the territory in the one of Sorrento.

Shocking and confused events followed until 1465, the year in which one of the saddest events in the history of our city occurred: the destruction of the main farmhouse, that of the Annunciation, seat of the Bishop and civil authority, the only one equipped with tower and walls, by Ferrante d’Aragona, who had laid siege there for two years camped in the esplanade in front of the northern slopes of the hill.

Giovanna II of Durazzo stayed there in a splendid palace, on the remains of which in 1600 the Jesuit Vincenzo Maggio raised the imposing building of the College with an adjoining high defense tower, commonly called the Torrione, an important work of architecture of the fortifications and maximum city monument.

During the Spanish viceroyalty, Massa Lubrense went through a period of troubling political events in the affliction of a miserable moral and civil decadence. Unfortunately, invasions of Turkish corsairs were frequent. In 1558, after making horrific massacres and looting, they took away a thousand and a half people as slaves, of which a small part was later redeemed.

The threat that continuously came from the sea forced the people of Massa to erect watchtowers along the coast, at a suitable distance, from which the alarm could be raised when the attackers approached. These towers, almost all still existing and more or less in a state of fair conservation, represent a particular feature of the landscape. In 1656 the plague that broke out in Naples a few years earlier spread also in our districts, causing many victims.

Finally, during the Bourbon domination, Massa also suffered from the progress of the times and the ancient peasant civilization was joined by significant commercial and artisan activities. Lacking land routes, a large fleet of large boats was heading for the capital and other Mediterranean ports, with a strong export movement (agricultural products, livestock, handicrafts) and imports (raw materials, consumables). The trade with Naples was so intense that an entire district at the dock was called Porta di Massa.

The people of Massa made a noble contribution of men and ideas to the Parthenopean Republic. Three fellow citizens, Luigi Bozzaotra, Severo Caputo and Nicola Pacifico, fearless champions of freedom, wrote their name in the register of martyrs of repression.

In 1808 Gioacchino Murat directed military operations against Massa against the British who occupied Capri. There was no lack of carbon conspiracies after the return of the Bourbons to the throne of Naples, until the liberation of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which was followed by the unification of Italy.

The opening of stone quarries (the most important are those of Vitale and Ieranto, both of which are now deactivated) attracted immigration to our Municipality of workers from Sardinia, who without excessive difficulty entered the Massa context, becoming an integral part of it and assimilating it customs and traditions.

During the Second World War a large number of internally displaced people, especially from Naples, which was heavily bombed, lodged in the so-called manor houses, in the midst of the farms of which they themselves owned for having their ancestors, belonging to the rich bourgeoisie, preferred this form of investment. And after the armistice of 1943, dozens of disbanded soldiers, already in force at the coastal defense positions of Le Tore and Reoia, found shelter with Massa families available to human solidarity. Many of them settled after the war and stayed there; others returned to their places of origin with the young brides.

The last decades are the recent history of democratic life and development. The agricultural economy, despite the crisis in the sector, remains quite flourishing, while the domestic and international tourist demand is sufficiently satisfied, thanks to the strengthening and improvement of the accommodation facilities and communication networks. The cultural level of the young people is in clear progressive growth.

All this will allow Massa Lubrense to keep up with the times, in the wake of its traditions of industriousness and civil progress.

Luigi Sigismondi

Taken from the Municipal Statute