Acerra (NA): A commune of Campania, in the province of Napoli.
Former Names (if any): anc. Acerrae.
Region: Campania │ Province: Napoli.
Coordinates: Lat. 40° 57′ 6′′ N/Long. 14° 22′ 37′′ E.
Location/Setting: Located 14 km NNE of Naples, it is situated in a quadrilateral plain along the Carmignano Canal. Part of the Regione Agraria n. 6 – Piano Campano sud-orientale.
Alt.: 26 m.
Area: 54.08 km².
Population: 50,808 (2006e); 50,808 (2005); 45,688 (2001); 41,311 (1991); 36,052 (1981) .
Pop. Density: 821.02/km² (2005).
Frazioni & Localities: Gaudello, Pezzalunga.
Tel. Prefix: 081
Name of Inhabitants: Acerrani.
Patron Saint(s): San Cuono. Feast Day: May 29.
Economy: Much of the commune is devoted to the production of corn, hemp, potatoes and beans. Sulfur and mineral springs are located in the commune.
Of Oscan or Etruscan origins, the town came under Samnite control in the 5th century BC. It is known to have been part of a league of Etrusco-Oscan cities controlled by Capua. Its first mention in history occurred in 332 BC when, at the end of a war of the Romans against the Latins and Campanians, it received the status of civitas sine suffragio (citizenship without voting rights) in the Roman State. In 216 BC, during the 2nd Punic War, the town was besieged and destroyed by Hannibal. For their loyalty to Rome, the citizens received permission to reconstruct their town in 210 BC. The new town, with its strong fortifications, remained loyal to Rome during the Social War of the early 1st century BC, successfully withstanding a siege by rebel forces under C. Papius in 90 BC. While the ancient town was able to defend itself from the attacks of men, it had no defense from those of nature. Because of its proximity to the river Clanius, the town suffered repeated flooding, undermining its buildings and destroying its crops. For much of the remainder of the 1st century BC Acerrae saw its population and prosperity decline dramatically. In the early years of the Empire, however, new life was breathed into the town. Augustus (r37 BC – AD 14) established a Roman veterans’ colony on the site in 22 BC. Unfortunately, this new revitalization was short-lived and Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) described the town as municipium instead of a colonia. Eventually it came under the control of a Prefect appointed directly from Rome instead of being locally chosen. During the peace of the early Empire, Acerrae became an important center for the worship of the Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis. A major temple to these gods was built here as was one dedicated to Hercules. Even so, Acerrae managed to remain a place of enough importance to become the seat of a bishopric during the 6th century AD.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Acerra changed hands several times. It came under the control of the Byzantine Duchy of Naples in AD 494. It was seized by the Lombards of Benevento in c826, who fortified it with a castle. It survived the ravages of the Saracens who destroyed neighboring Suessula in cAD 880/1. During the first half of the 11th century, a Norman county was established here. The earlier Lombard castle, which had been destroyed, was rebuilt and strengthened further. The Hohenstaufen Emperor, Frederick II, granted the town as a fief to his legate Tommaso D’Aquino (1218). Near the end of the 13th century, the town came under the direct control of the Angevin rulers of Naples. In 1310, it again changed status, becoming a fief of the Counts of Aquino. In 1420, Acerra suffered the first of two successful sieges by the Aragonese. The second one, in 1480, was led by King Ferdinand I. Despite these defeats, anti-Aragonese feelings continued and the town took part in the unsuccessful Conspiracy of the Barons (1485-86). Soon after this it was awarded to Ferdinando de Carenas whose family who held it until 1806.
Throughout most of its history Acerra remained a victim of flooding by the river Clanius. Only in relatively recent times were canals finally dug designed to draw floodwaters away from the town.
Damage was suffered from earthquakes in 1456, 1857, 1910, 1930, 1962, 1980, and 1984.
Points of Interest: It is the seat of a bishopric. Flooding has left little of the ancient town.
The partial remains of a Roman theater were excavated in the 1980s. Of major interest are the scena and the area which housed the choir and musicians.
The Castello dei Conti has a massive round tower. The castle, founded in the 9th century, was built on the site of a Roman theater and followed the plan of this earlier structure. Excavators have unearthed large portions of the ancient structure. Some excellent examples of Norman era architecture and art have also been discovered in the first floor of the castle.
Outside the center, but within the commune are the ruins of ancient Suessula and the 18th century Casa Spinelli.
In one part of the Castello dei Conti is the Museo delle Genti di Liburia – Museo della Maschera, del Folklore e della Civiltà Contadina which contains some interesting masks and other materials connected with the local folklore and daily lives of the peasant community.
The museum contains a number of interesting artifacts excavated from the nearby ruins of Suessula.
Churches (& other religious sites):
The 16th century Baroque Cathedral of S. Maria Assunta sits on the site of an ancient temple of Hercules. It partially collapsed in 1789 and was restored in 1843. The structure was almost completely rebuilt between 1859 and 1874. The façade was built in 1874. The Cathedral’s atrium is decorated with Ionic columns. Its interior has a nave and two aisles. Some of the relics from the earlier cathedral (including an outstanding Renaissance bishop’s throne) are preserved in the present one. The stuccowork decoration was added in the mid-18th century. Near the entrance there is a 16th century marble relief depicting the Annunciation on the holy-water stoup. There is a fine altarpiece painting from 1798 by Giacinto Diana showing the Assumption.
The Baroque church of the Annunziata possesses a beautiful dome. One of its chapels contains a 12th century Franco-Italian wooden crucifix. The 14th /15th century altarpiece depicts an Annunciation.
Journey of the Befana- Jan. 6.