Roman Ages

Valleluce was originally built in the 1st century A.D. as a “Pagus”, a rural territorial outposts of the Roman city of Casinum. The Pagus Valli Luci was composed of differents Vicus, or houses with farmland that flanked the villa of the Magister, a roman nobleman who held the job of local administrator. In addition to agriculture and farming, the Pagus was also a place where pagan rituals and festivals of pagan cult were held. A Roman aqueduct was built around 50 A.D. beginning at a location now called “Campo”. It was definitely a work commissioned by one of the noble families who lived in the Pagus of Vallis Luci. During excavation in recent years, some archaeological remains of that era have been unearthed, including some trunks of granite columns, a Corinthian column top and some stones deemed part of a sacrificial altar. Also unearthed, a bronze coin depicting “Faustina Minor” dating back to the second century A.D. The same coin was used during the times of Emperor “Marcus Aurelius”. To this list we must also add the Corinthian columns that support the apse of Saint Michael statue (concave domed recessed area) near the altar of the local Church.

Monastery of Saint Angelo

Middle Ages

Sometime between the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the 9th century, the bishop Gisulfo, just like his predecessors, took care of the reconstruction of the abbey in Montecassino, following the barbaric invasions of the previous years. In order to spiritually assist the people in the territory, the bishop commissioned the building of a series of small churches, known as “cellae”, which later became what we now know as monasteries. The first monastery after Montecassino was the one of Saint Angelo in Valleluce. Usually the “cellae” were built in the most fertile and crowded places, however, Valleluce was chosen because it was far away from Cassino and as it was hidden from the hills (which made the village safer). Moreover the “cella”, defined as the “minor church”, constitutes the “domus culta”, around which there were the Dominican lands, worked by the monks. Furthermore, there were the “massericie”, worked by the Massari, and lastly the “pertinantiae” lands, characterized by woods and grazes, needed by the inhabitants as primary resources. This economic structure was actually the uninterrupted continuation of the agrarian order established in the old Roman pagus. With time, the importance of the Monastery of Saint Angelo grew so much that from it two other churches were built, although they were still dependent upon it: Santa Maria Maggiore and Santa Maria delle Indulgenze.

San Nilo

Middle Ages

Saint Nilus was born in Rossano (Calabria) in 910 from a wealthy family and was named Nicola (Nicholas). He went to Rossano Catholic school were he received an excellent education and learned to read and write. Always attracted by the Sacred Scriptures and the life of hermits, he decided at an early age to dedicate his life to helping the needy and to give up his wealthy life to follow the words of the Gospel. Joining the San Nazario monastery he embraced the monastic life and took the name of Nilus. Always wanting to improve his spiritual life he decided to move into a cave in which there was an altar dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel. His vocation will prompt him to make several trips that will lead him to Capua and the Land of St. Benedict Abbey of Montecassino in 979. Abbot Aligerno who was in charge during those years, entrusted him with Valleluce's Monastery which was enlarged and restored. Nilus and sixty monks lived there for 15 years before moving on to Gaeta. During their stay in Valleluce, they produced a series of manuscripts, hand written books that are still stored in the Monastery of Saint Mary in Grottaferrata (near Rome).

Santa Maria Maggiore

Middle Ages

The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (Saint Mary Major) was built between the 11th and the 12th century by the monks of the Monastery of Saint Angelo in Valleluce. The Church is located in Santa Maria Maggiore, near Sant’Elia Fiumerapido. This ancient church is a true chest of medieval art as well as a true historical and cultural treasure. The church was dependent on the monastery of Valleluce and it was built as a resting place specifically for the monks who traveled between the monastery of Montecassino and the monastery of Valleluce. The building was part of a bigger architectural complex that included an adobe and a well now completely disappeared and bell tower on the left of which remains only the base covered by ivy. The entrance is positioned on the right longitudinal side and is surmounted by a beautiful lunette with a fresco of the Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus between Saint Michael Archangel on the left (on the road to Valleluce) and Saint Benedict on the right. The interior is decorated with the fresco technique, but unfortunately many frescos have been lost. These paintings were made by various painters who were commissioned by individual people or families. The most important iconographies depicted are: the Annunciation, The Majesty of Christ and various Saints. The floor in front of the altar has an extraordinary mosaic made of polychrome marbles that makes up geometric shapes. The gracious wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary is protected by a glass cabinet placed on the primitive altar in front of the apse, supposedly donated by the monks of the Monastery of Valleluce but it probably may be dated back to the 17th or 18th century.

Santa Maria delle Indulgenze

Middle Ages

The Church of Santa Maria delle Indulgenze (Saint Mary of Indulgences) was built by the Benedictine monks from the Monastery of Sant’Angelo in Valleluce. The church was built in Casalucense, a place near Sant’Elia Fiumerapido. Some sources date the construction of this church from the 9th century, while others claim that it was built simultaneously with the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, between the 11th and 12th centuries. Here the monks would make announcements to the people about the indulgences that were granted from time to time and in particular on the second Sunday after Easter. In 1840 the church was enlarged and two lateral aisles with apses were added. In 1893 the vault was painted with a series of frescoes by the painter Enrico Risi from Sant’Elia. The frescoes address some Biblical themes such as the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and the Virgin after the burial in the tomb of Jesus and Pentecost. Moreover, he also painted the arches of the dome with the four Evangelists and the Assumption of the Virgin in the dome itself. In 1957 the Church walls were frescoed by the painter from Bergamo, Giovanni Bizzoni with episodes of Mary’s life including: the Birth of Mary, the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, the Marriage of the Virgin, the escape into Egypt and the Marriage at Cana. The painter from Bergamo also intervened in the apse by painting the Visitation, the Nativity of Jesus and the Coronation of Mary with the inscription “REGINA COELI LAETARE ALLELUIA”. The Diocesan Sanctuary is still today under the custody of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate Conception.

The Banditry

Between 1800 and 1900

Brigandage was a tragic phenomenon which our nation was a victim of, a few years after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, March 17, 1861. In this period, potential criminals would gather under the command of most wanted criminals and formed bands of brigands. These bands were acting in secret without creating any suspicion with the aim of stealing large sums of money even at the cost of other people’s lives. One of their victims from our town was the parish priest Don Luigi Amato who was kidnapped by the gang of Bernardo Colamattei on the night of January 5, 1868. The pastor was taken to a cave in the mountains and then tortured. His relatives who were waiting for him, five days later received a letter containing a request for 3000 Ducati (ransom money) and a mutilated right ear of Don Luigi. On the morning of January 14 the robber ran to collect the ransom and then the pastor came back home safely.

The Organisation of Mutual Aid

Between 1800 and 1900

During the same period, the people of Valleluce saw fit to establish a “Mutual Aid Association” that would promote mutual assistance among the members, so on April 8, 1887 in the presence of the notary public Filippo Amato of Atina, the prospective members met in one extraordinary shareholder’s meeting for the approval of the by-laws of the Agricultural Mutual Aid Society of Valleluce. The Statute guaranteed each member the right to education and access to every means considered indispensable. Alfonzo Visocchi was elected president while the vice-president was Emilio Cavacece both of Atina. Later for not having submitted the annual financial statements as required by law, the Association was dissolved... On January 17, 1914 the Association was again reconstituted and a second statute was added. On August 9, 1922 the family of Picano sold a piece of land bordering the Church Square (Piazza), to the Agricultural Association and that is where they built the Town Social Hall. In 1934 the fascist regime dissolved the Association and took possession of this land. After the fall of the fascist regime on December 21, 1947, the surviving members assisted by the notary Sgueglia reconstituted the “Association” once again.

The Grain Mills

Between 1800 e 1900

In 1700 a grain Mill was built in the area of “Campo Primo” by voluntary work of the citizens of Valleluce as reported in a document found in the Archive of Caserta State. Our Municipality in fact was part of the Caserta province until 1927 when the province of Frosinone was established and our Municipality (Comune) was included. Valleluce’s Mill was managed by seven different millers who alternated one week each. A century later in 1880 the population of Valleluce increased so much that the mill was not sufficient anymore, so they resorted to the construction of a second much larger and functional one, approximately one kilometer downstream. Two mill stones were installed, one for grain and the other for the corn. In 1905 at about 1.5 km down stream a 3rd mill was built, still larger than the previous one, but this time a small hydro electric generating plant was added to provide electricity for the town’s lighting.

The Battle of Cassino

Second World War

After the fall of Mussolini’s government on September 3, 1943; General Giuseppe Castellano and General Eisenhower signed the armistice between Italy and the Allies that was announced on September 8th. Consequently Italy and Germany, which up until then had been allied, found themselves up against each other. On September 9, 1943 the Allies landed at Salerno with the main objective to take Rome. The conquest of the capital was a symbolic gesture of great propaganda potential. Cassino had always been the gateway and the only possibility of passage of armies from the South toward Rome, Cassino then served as a guard to the capital. The role that the city of Cassino played made her a martyr, but allowed her to claim to have saved the Eternal City.

The Gustav Line

Second World War

The Gustav Line was a German defensive line that divided Italy in two parts, the territory to the north was in the hands of the Italian Republic and the German troops while the South was in the hands of the Allied forces. This new border was established on October 4, 1943, and it extended from the mouth of the Garigliano river up to the Abruzzi region passing through Cassino. Specifically in our area, as reported by a map drawn up by French troops, the line passed along the south slope of Mount Cifalco, which made it the most extreme southern border, and that’s where the German troops established their observatories. The peaks of Mount Cifalco were also the ideal point for observation because they offered a complete panoramic view of Cassino Valley.

The War Victims

Second World War

The 2nd World War tragically involved also our town and unfortunately many people, both military and civilians had to pay the price with their lives. In memory of them, two commemorative plaques were installed in Valleluce at the intersection between Via Fontana and Via Cifalco at the entrance to Piazza San Nilo, the first was put up on May 9, 1920 and the second on November 4, 1979. Among the victims we especially remember Liberantonio Soave, a 30 years old which was the first victim of the German troops. In his memory a small memorial was built on April 18, 2009 on the site of his death, on the road to the village of Cese.