The Molisano Sant Elia Way

Walking Route Length: 37 km
Walking Route Number of Stages: 57 Stages
Walking Route Duration: 2-3 Days

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The Molise Way S. Elia a Pianisi – Roccavivara

The itinerary starts from Sant'Elisa a Pianisi and reaches Roccavivara.

Sant'Elia a Pianisi, is a town located 666 meters above sea level and is 37 km from Campobasso, the capital of the Molise Region.

The specification "a Pianisi" takes up the name of the place (Pianisi, from the Latin planum, plain) from which the inhabitants arrived following the destruction of the castle of the same name wanted by the Spanish viceroy Moncada, for having rebelled against his yoke (1528).

Already at that time Sant'Elia was a thriving centre, due to the mild climate and the richness of the fields which had attracted most of the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, such as Casalfano, Ficarola, San Nicola, Centocelle…. It is thought that Sant'Elia was born between the decline of the Lombard domination and the coming of the Normans; perhaps a group of fugitives, from some castle or burnt-out village, hid in the woods of this place and built the first huts and a chapel there, which they dedicated to Sant'Elia, protector of fire.

This explains the origin of the town and its name. Today Sant'Elia a Pianisi is a small town. Its surface, of about 6784 hectares, is made up of woods, hills and mounds where different crops are practiced: wheat, granone and oats.

There is also the cultivation of the olive tree, for the promotion of which this municipality has become part of the "National Association of Oil Cities" which has among its objectives the enhancement and promotion of the "oil" product and of the territories where the olive tree is more suitable. Until the 1970s it was the site of important industrial activities, whose products are now known in many parts of the world. Here there were three pasta factories, a sansificio, a mill, a pantificio, most of which, especially due to problems related to the road system, moved to the capital, and have only been partially replaced by other activities that have arisen in recent years. These include a biscuit factory and a canning company.

ROCCAVIVARA certainly dates back to the Samnite era. This is testified by archaeological finds found here and there, the cinerary urn of the Isernian type preserved as the base of the penultimate column in the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Canneto, a Greek silver coin from the Pirro mint found in the Pontoni district, Roman bronze coins dating to the Punic wars, an indecipherable inscription engraved on a tile gutted and destroyed while the highway was being built in Canneto. However, there are two hypotheses on the origins of its name, the first wants it to derive from Rocca Bonnarii, referring to its founder, a certain Bonnario; the second that it comes from Rocca di Vivara, referring to the still existing district of Vivara and bordering the municipality of Roccavivara.

The lower part of the countryside of Roccavivara offers ample evidence of the presence of inhabited centers at the time of republican and imperial Rome. Historical news tells us that in 1268 Gualtiero di Vollers was the feudal lord of Roccavivara; he was followed by Bertrando Cantelmo, whose descendants held the domain until 1442. Subsequently power passed to the Sangros, Carafas and Coppolas until the abolition of feudalism. A very interesting site was found in San Fabiano: a Roman villa certainly built on a ground floor supported by a megalithic construction.

Of valuable historical-artistic value is the Church of Santa Maria in Canneto, built in the district of the same name, so called because of its proximity to the Trigno river and therefore full of reeds. The church was built on an already existing place of worship, and, although the date of its construction is not clear, the first news of the building can be dated around 706, as evidenced by a document in which Duke Gisulfo I of Benevento gift of the church to the Benedictine monks of San Vincenzo al Volturno. In the tower facade and in the bell tower of the church, fragments of reuse can be identified that can be traced back to the 8th and 9th centuries, certainly belonging to the first construction, of which no structure remains. The interior of the church has three naves with a trussed roof and Roman columns, coming from some nearby building, surmounted by Romanesque capitals. It offers a large number of sculptures that decorate the lunette of the portal and the capitals. Remarkable and also rare for the iconographic apparatus, is the thirteenth-century ambo 1223. In a gallery of six blind arches it presents six statuettes depicting Benedictine monks in various attitudes.

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