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S. Cataldo
...My Story of Supino...
A Different Story…

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So much has been written about the history of Supino that it is not necessary to state the facts again. The stories, folklore, and irrefutable events are written in books like Supino and San Cataldo by Mons. Fausto Schietroma, Statuta Castri et Universitatis Supini by Prof. Cesare Bianchi, and other published materials by distinguished authors. The facts are that the houses, buildings, churches, and the ruins of a castle show testimony that people have lived in the Supino area since ancient times. The "Cronaca di Fossanova," which is the oldest written record describing the first destruction of Supino by Pope Onorio II in 1127, confirms these facts. It seems that all the evidence is based on these chronicles, because the modern writers for fear of making mistakes, not wanting to do research, not wanting to be controversial, simply ignored the evidences available to them. However, at this time, this is the only information available to us. The facts of this area, whether it is called Supino, La Rava, or whatever, will always remain the same. All that is known, is that a village near Ferentino existed. Therefore, on a personal note, I would like to propose to the reader a different and provocative hypotheses. I would like to make note, that I am speaking in the first person, since the events and research, as they unfold, are those of my own personal experience and not acquired by hearsay.

I want to show that the history of Supino started way before the battle of 1127, and even before the construction of the mosaics of the Roman Baths in Cona del Popolo, circa 50 AD.

When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my mother often took me to Privito, which is located near the Morolense Road, in the country, about 3 kilometers from downtown Supino.
Privito was the main laundromat, oral newspaper, and gossip line of the town. I played in the surrounding fields and, of course, usually ended up playing in the spring waters of Privito and fell into the mud puddles near the fountain. My mother took my drenched clothes to wash and borrowed a pair of pajamas from another lady.

This incident was the cause of many embarrassing moments for years to come as the pajamas belonged to her young daughter.As an adult, the daughter would give me a wink to remind me that I wore her pajamas. When my clothes dried, I went behind some thorn bushes to change and noticed two cone shaped structures jetting out of the bushes. Later I often wondered why these structures were there, why the particular shapes, and why the opening at the top, why that particular type of wall which appeared to be very ancient in construction. In observing this area I noticed that there were ruins near the road leading to Privito, from Via Morolense. During the many visits I found various artifacts which lead me to believe that the area was a vast ancient burial ground and the structures were connected somehow.

This area has been used as a limestone quarry, where the townspeople got their building material for their construction projects. The continued blasting of limestone exposed and destroyed most of the tombs.

When my grandfather, with the help of a cousin, built his house he acquired the limestone from this quarry. In his extraction of the limestone, he found what he called the "L'Impero Romano" (The Roman Empire). When I was 10 years old and just before he died he told me about the finding. In 1957, I questioned my mother about the cousin who found the "L'Impero Romano" because I had found another artifact, the amphora, near Privito. An amphora is a small earthware bottle used to hold perfumes, precious oils, or as lachrymatory. She told me who the family was and I went to question the daughter. I asked if she knew about the "L'Impero Romano," and as if awakening from a dream, she went directly to where it was supposedly hidden in the wall of her house. Upon returning, she informed me that the "L'Impero Romano" was no longer where her father had instructed her to hide it. However, she was able to give me a detailed description of the artifact.

My grandfather's house was built in 1930 and he passed away in 1948. I went to serve in the military in 1959.

In 1986, with the publication of the book, "Statuta Castri et Universitatis Supini," I was finally able to see, even if only from a photograph, "L'Impero Romano," which I had heard from my grandfather and so long searched for, (The newspaper, Il Tempo di Frosinone, in 1963 spoke about this same statuette.) In this book, in fact, there is a photograph of a little bronze statue that was found many years ago, but unless it is from other findings, the explicative note is in error: it says that the statuette was found during the excavations in the "Privito" area. There were never excavations done in this area, only mines were blasted quite frequently to the cries of "esso la mina." Ancient human skulls and bones, and coins flying through the air and landing between the "ciocie" (sort of sandals) of the scared women who were washing their clothes at Privito and who would hang them to dry on the thorn bushes. Bushes that probably hid the key to the history of Supino or at least the presence of a more ancient city, maybe one of the seven that Tito Livio said to be vanished by the time of his writings.

When I returned to Supino I was shocked and enraged to find out that the protruding walls and the ruins near Privito were cleared with dynamite and a tire reconstruction factory was in its place. I was saddened to hear that from the rubble many coins, glittery objects, and pieces of terracotta were strewn all over the countryside. However no one knew of the value in this location. Fortunately some of the artifacts were recovered and safely stored in the sacristy of Santa Maria Church and there were 2 or 3 postal sacks of coins entrusted to the Carabinieri.
Articles and photographs in the "Il Tempo di Frosinone," October, 1963 describe the artifacts and the statuette as being found at the excavations of the thermal baths, which is not true at all. At that time, the journalist must have been intentionally misinformed, because the thermal baths were discovered 4 years after the factory was built in 1959 (1959 is when the ruins were blown up and the coins found).

However these artifacts were never seen again and their whereabouts is not known.
This increased my curiosity even more. Going back to the narrative of Tito Livio, where he states: "Cum Volscis inter Ferentinum atque Ecetram, signis collatis, dimicatum; Roamanis secunda fortuna pugnae fuit;" that is "The Romans fought the Volsci between Ferentino and Ecetra and won," I asked myself if there were signs to indicate the place of the battle.

There was another site where traces of ancient ruins were present, where farmers had found black and white mosaic chips, which they referred to as "horse teeth." On Sunday,October 13, 1963 my brother-in-law and I went to dig in this area known as Cona del Popolo. We were being considered crazy for digging in the area. But after digging approximately 30 to 35 centimeters, about 15 inches we discovered the first mosaic of Neptune. Later that month the rest of the complex was cleared and it was established that this was the Thermal Baths of a probable Roman Villa. However, I must confess that we were looking for Ecetra, destroyed by the Romans in 370 B.C., but what we discovered was built 400 years later, between 50-100 AD.

The entire scuffle certainly stimulated the minds of some people, especially the mayor. In some way, and which is not in relation to the discovery of the mosaics, but in precedence, the mayor procured a large photograph of the area that was taken by the British Royal Air Force in 1944. By looking at the photograph of the area bounded by Via la Mola, I Colli, Via Polvino, and the Chiarella Bridge, it was obvious that under the hay fields there were visible outlines of buildings and roads of previous societies.

Click to view mosaici galleryIt was so conclusive that the Mayor, in agreement with the Parish Priest of Santa Maria, authorized a test dig under the two oak trees located half up the hill in the hay field. Even though nothing conclusive was found, because they only dug two meters deep, they found pieces of earthenware in the soil that obviously had not been disturbed for hundreds of years.
I have always asked myself how these pieces of terracotta got into this undisturbed ground and found the possible answer while looking at the countryside from the wall at the side of San Pietro Church.
As I looked down, a valley called "I Fai," is visible at the foot of the mountain range and I realized that it was possibly formed from a mudslide that buried everything in its path all the way down to the Sacco River.
The mud slide from the steep slopes of the "Punta di Creta Rossa " and "Il Vincolo" formed the hills between la Via la Mola, il Farneto, and il fosso Rufoli, at the bottom of Via Polvino burying what remained after the destruction of the Romans.
This could also explain why Ecetra, was not mentioned any more, once buried, it no longer existed to anyone. These assumptions appear to be confirmed when looking at the satellite photographs taken in 1996 of the eastern slopes of Monti Lepini, behind San Pietro Church.

At this point I have to few questions to ask:

1. What did the mayor, the parish priest and the other witnesses see on that photograph that made them send the town dependents to dig under the oaks of the field?

2. Is the bronze statuette, evidently of Etruscan features that came to light near "Privito", a dream? It was dated by experts to be from the III or VI century B.C. and made by local artisans, who were they?

3. If there was a vast necropolis, and I am certain that some tombs are still there, could be an indication that a fair sized city existed in the area?

4. The votive wells "favisse" (this is what are called the old walls covered with briars that I saw when I was a child) and the ruins are proof that there was a city, judging from the pictures on the newspaper there were many artifacts left over from the blast to assume so!

5. From the photograph in the newspaper of 1963 seems that some artifacts resemble the styles of objects found in the Etruscan tombs of Alto Lazio. Is it possible that Ecetra (Luca or Satrico or...) was right there where it was buried unexpectedly after the destruction, since it isn't spoken of since 370 B.C.?

6. The tombs, the votive wells, the temple, the fountain and do not forget the anatomical findings made of terracotta, makes one to think of a divinity introduced in the VII-VI century B.C. in the lower Lazio by the Greeks. This divinity was the Greek god of medicine Esculapio, who not only had the powers to heal the sick, but could also resurrect the dead. It is logical to think (and numerous tombs that went from the fountain towards la Via la Mola confirms it) about a considerable settlement that made use of the cemetery from around the fourth or fifth century B.C.

7. All the tombs that were observed over the years were on the bank of limestone.
The ancient people, I believe, would have preferred to bury their dead under the earth being that it was easier to dig. What made them dig the limestone, which is much harder if it wasn't for the necessity to have their dead as near as possible to a purifying fountain and to the temple of resurrection and health?

8. One of the most important observations about Ecetra not being in the vicinity of Supino is that of Professor Bianchi that refers to the fact that the Romans, after having destroyed Ecetra, made their way towards Artena, (As Livio says 400 years later). This implicates the fact that Ecetra was before Artena coming from Rome, but who could know for certain that the Romans were coming from Rome along the Via Latina? They could just as easily have come from the other side of the mountains, where they had colonies, along the route that later became the Via Appia, still in function today, crossing at the Palombara pass.

In concluding this brief and very personal version of the history of Supino I wish that someone, divesting himself/herself of political flavors, the main reasons why nothing is ever done to bring Supino to a just notoriety, would embrace the cause and bring back to light whatever has been under the soil for far too long.
What has been destroyed will never come back. Let us learn from the despicable actions of the past, and never repeat them again.

Ernesto Carbonelli
Toronto, May 5, 2002

The story of "The Book of Statutes"

The book "STATUTA CASTRI ET UNIVERSITATIS SUPINI", commonly referred to as the "Libro degli Statuti" or "The Book of Statutes" is the book of laws that regulated the village in the years starting from 1534. It was in force until the 19th century when It was abolished by The Vatican State.
It was refurbished in 1986-87 and in 1991 was taken back to Supino with much fanfare and celebrations.
In 1991, I searched for it at the Town Hall and nobody could tell me were it was. After much fracas with one of the clerks, I was told that maybe it was in the cellar. So I got it out from were I took it originally some thirty years earlier….

But let us go in chronological order.

The then distinguished teacher, Professor Mario Cerilli founded a center for reading in 1950 to 1951. The idea was to go and read in the City Hall boardroom so that books could be exchanged and shared with everyone.
During the colder nights, we would ask to turn on the heaters and the handyman was called to light it.
With the curiosity that always distinguished me, I went into the basements to see in what consisted the turning on of the heaters. The handyman took from the dusty shelves a "grungy old book", ripped some pages out, lit them and so gave fire to the boiler that he already had filled with wood.
I was impressed with how the heaters functioned and quickly started to heat the room, but more impressed I was with the method of lighting it and the material used as primer.
In talking with the teacher about it, we decided to recuperate and read some books that remained in the basement. We went down and took the three remaining books evidently from a more vast collection of "grungy old books".
One of the books was of particular interest, since it spoke of not to send the goats in the plain of Santa Serena during a certain time of the year.

We realized the content of the book and its' function and it was made available for everyone for a period of time. Eventually, the center for reading was closed down and everyone took back his or her own books. In my collection of books, there happened to be the "Libro degli Statuti"; one that listed the registration of dowries/endowments, exchanges of property, legacies/bequests and the like, was given to another student and of one more book that seemed to be a registry of births and deaths I do not know the fate.
The "Libro degli Statuti" was put between the Odyssey and the Iliad wrapped up in a waxed cloth and preserved.
When I emigrated in 1965, the book was left behind in Supino with my other books but eleven years later I brought them all back with me to Canada.

The book remained preserved, but not forgotten, wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator until 1984-85 when the then mayor Alberto Volponi, now a senator, while visiting us "emigrants" in Toronto, and discussing the history of Supino, revealed a distinct and profound interest in the book. Also seen the fact that his father-in-law Professor Cesare Bianchi is an expert in similar things. He would be able to make just cause and to translate it like he already did for the Statuti of Ferentino.

We came to an agreement to make photocopies to bring to Italy and in 1986, the book was published with the translation from Latin to Italian at facing pages for all to read and understand.

Just as I had decided before, and now more reassured of the care that it could receive, I had the "Libro degli Statuti" restored using, where it was missing, the original leather used at the time it was collated, presumably in the year 1530.
It can be noted that on the original tome, now in possession of the Supino Town Council, the leather used is the same considering the difference in age. The same leather, ordered specially from Germany, was also used to make an elegant case to hold the now stabilized tome. On its face in gold are the emblem and the title.

The restoration, which is to be said, costed me a lot, was made possible in part with the financial assistance of the Supino Social and Cultural Club of Toronto and, therefore, all the supinesi here. With the interest of the Tempo Travel Agency and Verulanum of Mr. Daniele Boni and Mr. Pierino Piroli, the "Libro degli Statuti" returned to the Supino community after more than 30 years of absence.
Much documentation, even photographic, exists of this event.

A comment that I would like to make, is that the book of the ancient statutes was saved from certain destruction, even by my merits, it was preserved and restored and almost all of the costs borne by me and by my will brought back to Supino where I had to bring it back since it was always my conviction that it belonged there.
I do not accept any accusation of stealing it, especially from someone who has preferred to speak before thinking and find out the truth.
After all, the facts speak for themselves. Even Cesare Bianchi maintains that "One of the books, the one believed to be the original, is kept in the custody by Mr. Ernesto Carbonelli of Supino now residing in Canada"...a very important admission missing on other publications.

It is enough to consider that it was sufficient to omit the fact and nobody would have known, like "L'Impero Romano" that remains hidden from the sight and pleasure of the supinesi, but not only, it even denies an origin more ancient, maybe more noble, and thus, makes it really wrong...and painful...

Ernesto Carbonelli
Toronto April 7th, 2002

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