Mileto and its Churches
Mileto is in the province of Vibo Valentia, located on an elongated hill to the east of the mountain group of Monte Poro and south of Vibo Valentia. Renowned in history, Ruggero the Norman of the Altavilla family of Normandy built it in his residence making it one of the most important centers not only in Calabria but in the whole of Europe; today it preserves the remains of a cathedral, founded in 1081, and the remains of the Benedictine abbey of the SS. Trinity. The origins of Miletus, although brought back to the Greek period, are likely to be brought back to the Byzantine era when the city, conquered by the Normans, became the capital of the Ruggero I d’Altavilla county. However, the remains of a Roman villa of the II century AD were found, dating back to earlier times. The city has been a bishopric since the eleventh century, when it was precisely Roger I the Norman who obtained the foundation of the episcopate by Pope Gregory VII. The diocese of Mileto was founded in 1985 by unifying the dioceses of the three cities indicated in the current name. The diocese of Miletus was the first of the Latin rite in the Mezzogy of Italy, after the Greek-Byzantine rite had replaced the Roman rite, acquired considerable importance over the centuries thanks to its vastness and the foundational privileges of which it was the bearer. After the earthquake of 1783 that destroyed the ancient city, the new Miletus rose about 2 kilometers to the west in a land called “Villa del vescovo”. In 1799 Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo stopped there to gather his army called the “Santa Fede”, and from there he moved to bring Ferdinand IV of Bourbon back to the Kingdom of Naples. On 28 May 1807 the town saw the clash between the Neapolitan army and the French army that, under the orders of General Reynier, won the Battle of Miletus conquering the domination of the region for about a decade. On 27 August 1860 in Mileto, Giuseppe Garibaldi stops before completing his undertaking to conquer the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
On the eastern sector of Monte Poro – near the Valle del Mesima – rises Mileto, the ancient Norman capital.
On a hill not far from today’s town of Vibo Valentia, there is the Parco Archeologico of Ancient Mileto.
The site, the only medieval archaeological park in Calabria, houses the remains of one of the most important feudal centers in the entire region.
The point in which it rises is purely strategic; in fact, its position is to guard the passage of an important communication route in Roman times: the consular road Annia Popilia. It united Reggio to the north of Calabria and to the rest of the Italian peninsula.
Heavily damaged by the earthquakes of 1638 and 1659 it was completely razed to the ground by the earthquake of 5 February 1783 and subsequently abandoned.
Following a brief history of Miletus, starting from when the city appeared in history during the Norman domination in Calabria.
- In 1056 Roberto the Guiscard sent, to eradicate Calabria, the 26 year old brother Roger, who, placed the field on the hill of Monteleone, began a victorious guerrilla, with fierce devastation and greedy looting.
- In 1058 the two brothers divided Calabria and Ruggero was invested with the Castle and the title of Miletus. Rising the town on an inaccessible slope, dominating the gulfs of S.Eufemia and Gioia Tauro, at the confluence of the Scatopleto and Perrera streams, covered by hills and, therefore, made invisible by the sea, offered an enviable position of defense against raids Barbary. On the one hand, the nearby inlet of the Mesima river facilitated communications with the Tyrrhenian beach and Sicily. On the other, the plain of the Poro and the via Popilia allowed easy contacts with the rest of Calabria and with the countries of the kingdom.
- In 1062, Count Ruggero, having to marry Delizia, considered Castello di Mileto as a dowry and asked his brother to peremptory his possession of half of Calabria, as was agreed in the 1058 agreement. Roberto, in response, besieges Mileto and in the clash is killed Arnoldo, brother of Delizia, for which, Count Roger, burning with indignation, in order to avert the danger to the city of Miletus, occupies with a hundred of his the fortress of Gerace and captured his brother Roberto therein, he generously saved his life by asking and obtaining only what he was entitled to. The Miletan Province, which embraced half of Calabria, was constituted as a part of which the Count had been regularly invested.
- Then became Mileto Capitale and home of his family, Ruggero improved it, building in 1063 the Abbey of the Holy Trinity, the Cathedral and the Episcopio and fortified it with the castle.
- In 1072 Ruggero founded the mint, coining – in memory of the victorious sieges of Palermo and Capua – two gold coins. He also ennobled the Norman capital, making it transfer the bishop’s seat from the destroyed Bivona.
- In this way, Mileto became one of the largest Italian dioceses with the official sanction, in 1080, of Gregorio VII.
During the stay of Count Ruggero, Miletus was the center of political and administrative life of the kingdom in which flowed the most eminent personalities of politics, religion and culture and solved the most important problems of southern Italy.
It had the splendor of a capital and its inhabitants could attend solemn entrances of pontiffs, rulers, saints, and warriors. The Count Ruggero, after the capture of Capua, to rest from the labors of war, returned to Miletus where he spent his old age, until the age of 70 years. In 1101 the Norman count closed his earthly existence and was buried in the Abbey of the SS. Trinity.
Simeon succeeded him and, four years later, Roger II, who in the year 1130 transferred the capital to Palermo where he was crowned king.
Since the Normans moved their residence in Sicily, Mileto lost the pomp of a capital, remaining only an important bishop’s seat. Over time, Miletus, who in the golden age had numbered up to fifteen thousand souls, saw more and more thin its population, troubled by the telluric movements of 1170, 1184, 1624, 1638, 1659, 1693, 1723, 1743, was razed to the ground from the earthquake of 1783.