History of Tropea - Panel 3


In the past, the so-called Porta di Mare rose up on the eastern side of Tropea; it was the most ancient of the gates which opened onto the city walls (1). The Porta di Mare was so called because it was oriented towards the seashore, where the main commercial activities took place (2).

Originally, there was a drawbridge with a deep moat in front. Subsequently, a wooden board bridge was secured and then replaced around 1824 with a stonework vault. Below the eastern side of the cliff, there was a series of impressive arches, which constituted the arsenal (3). It was in the vicinity of mouth of the Lumia torrent, where several kinds of watercrafts were built or repaired; they were used for fishing, commercial and also military purposes, as in the case of the three galleys, which under the command of Colonel Gaspare Toraldo participated in the naval battle of Lepanto, on 7 October 1571.

The Porta di Mare was defended by a bastion called La Munizione (4). It was so defined because it contained the gunpowder storage room and the cannons, but also because it was munito (equipped) with areas suitable for the allocation of other kinds of weapons (swords, spears, halberds), to provide accommodation for soldiers and the residence for the Governor. According to several historians, this is where the Parliament of Universitas Tropeae used to meet; it consisted of the assembly of nobles and, later, of the Honorati del Popolo (the bourgeois class). It appointed among its members two mayors and its own magistrates and also had its own income, rights and privileges.

Other archive sources (1515,1544,1550) report that the meetings took place in the nearby Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena, which was adjacent to the city walls, and in the Chiesa della Raccomandata (the latter backed up against the Bastione della Munizione). Inside the Bastione della Munizione there was also a sort of executioner’s block for capital punishment, called the talamo. According to the Tropean chronicler Francesco Sergio, in the Bastione in 1642 two Tropean noblemen were beheaded: the previous year they had been tarnished with a sacrilegious crime committed inside the Cathedral. The work for the Cathedral restoration started around 1926 and was completed in 1931. The Bastione della Munizione and the Porta di Mare, by then obsolete and damaged by the 1905 and 1908 earthquakes, were totally demolished in 1929, when the present panoramic belvedere and the stairway leading to the seashore were created (5).


The Cathedral of Tropea was erected in 1163 during the Norman domination and consecrated to Santa Maria Assunta. The building has a basilical plan with three naves, octagonal pillars and polychrome ashlars, as is the tradition of the Sicilian-Norman Romanesque (6).

Due to earthquakes and fires, it was remodeled several times over the centuries. It was restored to its original style between 1926 and 1931, but these interventions erased almost every trace of Baroque and Neoclassical style (7).

On the façade there is the main entrance with a raised arched portal, in tuff. The external apsidal complex with three curves has decorative arches and decorations with yellow tuff stone and lava stone. The northern façade is the original one from the Norman period. On this façade another 18th century portal opens up with smaller proportions compared to the main one. It preceded by four steps, surmounted by a stone structure, which reproduces the painting of the Madonna of Romania. In the first chapel on the right we find some burials of the Galluppi family, dating back to 1598 and 1651, and the tomb of the philosopher Pasquale Galluppi (8).

In the second chapel we can see a large 15th century wooden crucifix and the tomb of Blessed Francesco Mottola (9). Moving forward there is the southern side entrance and the tomb of the Gazzetta family (1530) (10).

From here we enter the sacristy and the Chapter House with the portraits of the Bishops of the Diocese and eighteenth-century wooden furnishings. Returning to the right aisle, we  reach the chapel of the Madonna delle Grazie and of the Holy Sacrament and of Santa Domenica with valuable polychrome marble altars and decorations from 1740; sideways is the altar of Santa Domenica and San Francesco di Paola (11).

The spandrels of the vault and the lunettes show paintings by Giuseppe Grimaldi depicting the martyrdom of Saint Domenica (12).

Coming out of the chapel, at the end of the apse of the right aisle, there are the organ and the altar with the Madonna del Popolo (1555) (13), by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli, a disciple of Buonarroti. On the wall of the main apse is placed the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Romania, a work of the Giotto school attributed to Lippo di Benivieni (half of the XIV).

This painting, executed on a cedar board, has been retouched several times over time, with the addition of four angels on the sides. Popular piety attributes to her many miracles that protected the city from earthquakes, pestilences and war destruction. In the main nave we find the eighteenth-century pulpit under which there is a bas-relief of the Nativity, by Pietro Barbalonga (1598) which was originally part of the Galzerano chapel (14).

Passing from the left aisle, in the apse we find a valuable marble tabernacle of the Tuscan school of the fifteenth century, commissioned by the Bishop Pietro Balbo, and above the statue of the Madonna della Libertà in Carrara marble (of the XVII), ex voto for the cancellation of the sale of Tropea in favor of the Prince of Scilla Vincenzo Ruffo in 1615 (15). On the  north way out, a bas-relief depicting the Resurrection, attributed to Gagini (mid-16th century) and two tondos depicting the Annunciation, of the same period (16).


About the arrival of the painting of the Madonna of Romania (17), the legend tells that at the time of the iconoclastic struggles, an icon arrived on a boat from the Eastern Byzantine driven by a storm in the port of Tropea: for this reason it was named Madonna of Romania (Romània was meant the Eastern Roman Empire). Once the damage was repaired, the captain tried to leave, but the ship remained in the harbor (18).

On the same night, the bishop of the city dreamed of the Madonna asking him to stay in Tropea and become its protector. The dream was repeated for several nights. Finally the Bishop, summoning the senior officials and the citizens, went to the port and took the picture of the Madonna. As soon as the painting left the ship, it sailed again. Later the Madonna was still in a dream to another bishop, Ambrogio Cordova, warning him of an earthquake that would have devastated Calabria. On 27 March 1638 he instituted a procession, w involving all the Tropean people. During the procession the earthquake broke out but it did not cause any damage to the citizens. From this event the devotion of Tropea for this Madonna was strengthened, the tropeani recognizing her beneficent intercession, proclaimed her Protector and remember the 27th of March 1638 with a great religious festival. Attributed to the Madonna of Romania were also salvation from plague epidemic that in 1660 expanded to Tropea and throughout the kingdom of Naples with thousands of victims and then, during the second world war, the non-explosion of six large war bombs, two of them kept in the Cathedral of Tropea in memory of that avoided tragedy (19).

On September 9th of each year, the anniversary of the Coronation of the Sacred Icon, a procession takes place accompanying the venerated Image through the city streets accompanied by the religious brotherhoods. The popular participation is very high and the devotion to the Madonna is confirmed by the people, who in the days of the Novena that precedes the feast, participate with enthusiasm and devotion, celebrating the praises of the Mother of God with hymns and songs (20).

Progetto realizzato dagli studenti della classe IV
del Liceo Classico "P.Galluppi" - Anno 2018/2019
Tutor: Dott. Dario Godano
Traduzioni: Prof.ssa Luigina Rovito,
Prof.ssa Francesca Ottavio, Prof.ssa Franca Medile