Amalfi was founded by the Romans in the IV century A.D. (in the coat of arms reads
"ex Descendit patribus Romanorum"). The town became independent from the Byzantine
Empire in 839, and proclaimed itself Maritime Republic (the first of the four most
important ones with Pisa, Genoa and Venice). The core of its wealth was produced
form the trade with the East. Amalfi reached its maximum splendor in the XI century
with its powerful and agile fleet, with berths in the main ports of the Mediterranean.
The Arsenal of masonry, used for the construction of the hulls of the galleys, are
today two stone brick halls, divided by ten pillars. The sea front and the ancient
port of Amalfi were swallowed by the sea, after an underwater landslide, caused
by a powerful current of Libeccio in the night between 24 and 25 November 1343.
The local traditions narrate that the mariners of Amalfi were the first to use the
compass during their voyages, identifying the name of the inventor Flavio Gioia.
The present town, which lies on the higher grounds in the valley, features a series
of white houses, most with barrel vault ceilings and built on terraces within a
picturesque web of alleys and stairways.
The main monument and symbol of the city is the Cathedral of St. Andrew, preceded
by an imposing staircase. The original structure is in Romanesque style, currently
covered with sumptuous Baroque decorations. The polychrome façade, preceded by an
elegant portico, is dominated by the mosaic tympanum, Christ's triumph, artwork
of Domenico Morelli, whose proofs are still preserved in the hall, entitled to him,
in the Town Hall. Inside the Cathedral preserves a wide selection of masterpieces:
an elegant coffered ceiling with paintings of the XVIII century, a wooden crucifix
of the XIII century, a mother of pearl cross from Jerusalem, the baptismal font
(a basin of porphyry stone from an ancient Roman villa), two pillars of Egyptian
granite from nearby Paestum that support the main arch, spiral columns and an Ambon
of the XII century. In the crypt are preserved the relics of St. Andrew, from which,
since 1304, exudes a dew, called "manna", which is collected in a glass bowl that
for the locals has miraculous effects.
The Campanile (bell tower), edified since 1180, is composed of bifore and trifore
windows, green and yellow majolica roof tiles, all with Arabesque influenced features.
Dating to the IX century, the adjoining Basilica of the Crucifix, built over an
existing early Christian church, at present remain only some of the columns and
their capitals. Entitled to Our Lady of the Assumption and the Saints Cosma and
Damiano, it is the seat of the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Arts, a permanent exhibition
of the treasures of the Cathedral.
The Cloister of Paradise (XIII century) is an elegant cloister in Moorish narrow
crossed arches. Initially used as a burial place of the notables of Amalfi, today
it preserves some Roman sarcophagi, a XIV century sarcophagus and the remains of
the old façade of the Cathedral.
In the Civic Museum in the Town Hall are preserved the famous "Tavole Amalfitane"
(Tabula Civitatis Malphae), the first legal text of navigation rules which had a
great influence up till the XVII century. These rules are the main structure of
the naval mercantile Foscarini Code, traced in Vienna and returned to Amalfi in
Going up to the Valle dei Mulini, worth a visit is the Paper Museum, located in
the ruins of an old medieval mill of the XIII century, witnessing the old production
techniques of the Amalfi paper-making traditions and the functionality of the old
mills operated by the power of the stream Canneto.
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