The Sights and Sounds of Benevento

As I said yesterday, Benevento was a feast of new, exciting, and unexpected sights and sounds. There was a castle:

castle! the banner on the right side is saying the community should come together against racketeering

and there was a circular/octagonal Longobard church, with teeny remnants of medieval frescoes:

it is a challenge to photograph octagonal/circular spaces
but check out this cool bit of fresco!

And then down the main drag a bit, was a little hidden garden called the Hortus Conculsus, which is or course a reference to the Virgin Mary:

pretty!

There were bits of ruins strewn about as you can see in the photo above, and a lot of fountains, and you had to go down a little street, and then a littler street and under a passageway to get to it, so it actually was a hidden garden. There were also a bunch of strange, vaguely creepy sculptures there that our host told us were Egyptian. Including this horse, which was set up on the wall overlooking it all:

this was probably the least creepy of the sculptures; a lot of them involved disembodied heads that were missing some of their features

It was eerily quiet, save for the splashing of the fountains, and genuinely seemed like a magical, spiritual place as twilight fell. The sculptures, which recalled a strange mix of pagan, pre-historic and early-medieval British art (despite their supposed Egyptian origin? I was pretty unclear on this point), also added to a startling sense of otherworldliness that I never would have expected to find in small town in southern Italy.

Another thing that I didn’t expect to find in Benevento was this:

arch of trajan, arch of trajan!!

An Imperial Triumphal Arch constructed during the reign of Trajan, that’s in better shape than any of the ruins of triumphal arches here in Rome. And yes, that’s the Trajan of column, markets, and forum fame here. There was no sign or placard or anything that provided any information about the arch, so I don’t know if it’s been extensively restored, or if it’s just spectacularly well-preserved. Look at those coffers!:

nice coffers!

Despite having taught Trajan and his column/markets/forum in introductory survey art history courses about 7000 times, I have never even once heard of this arch. Even if I stretch the bounds of my memory back to my Roman art and architecture class from undergrad, Benevento never, ever came up, demonstrating the bias in art history towards repeatedly teaching the canonical/standard artworks, and a linear, easy narrative. “Easy” isn’t an adjective or descriptor I would ascribe to Benevento, but “fascinating,” “brutally beautiful,” and “totally worth it,” definitely are. More on Benevento soon…

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2 thoughts on “The Sights and Sounds of Benevento

  1. I believe the horse is by the contemporary artist Mimmo Paladino. There is a museum of his work in Benevento, which is his home town.

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