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DIOCESE OF TARANTO (TARENTINA)

Diocese in southern Italy, on a bay in the Gulf of Taranto. The ancient city was situated on an island, joined by two bridges with the mainland, where the new city is built. Two islets, S. Pietro and S. Paolo, protect the bay ( Mar grande ), the commercial port, while the old city forms another bay ( Mar piccolo ), a military port next in strategic importance to Spezzia; the coast and islets are therefore very strongly fortified. The city has a large export trade and extensive works connected with the construction of warships, while the fishing industry, especially in the Mar piccolo , is flourishing. The cathedral dates from the eleventh century, but has been partially reconstructed in modern times. The high altar has a silver statue of St. Cathaldus; the saint's chapel, rich in marble and statues, with a cupola decorated with a fresco of Paolo de Matteis, is due to the munificence of archbishops Lelio Brancaccio, Saria, and Pignatelli.

Tarentum, called Taras by the Greeks, was founded in 707 B.C. by some Spartans, who, the sons of free women and enslaved fathers, were born during the Messenian War. They succeeded in conquering the Menapii and Lucani. Like Sparta, Tarentum was an aristocratic republic, but became democratic when the ancient nobility dwindled. Its government was praised by Aristotle. The people were industrious and commercial, employing a mercenary army commanded by foreign leaders, like the King of Sparta Archidamus II, Cleonymus, and later Pyrrhus. Alexander, King of Epirus, tried in vain to capture the city; he then became an ally of the Romans, and his death in a new expedition against the Tarentines led to the first dispute between the two republics. War resulted from the violation of a maritime treaty by the Romans (281). Tarentum engaged the services of Pyrrhus, who, victorious at first, was finally conquered at Beneventum (275); in 272 the city was taken by the Romans and included in the federation. Even in those early days it was renowned for its beautiful climate. In 208 it sided with Hannibal, but was retaken in 205, losing its liberty and its art treasures, including the statue of Victory. In ancient times its poets Apollodorus and Clinias, its painter Zeuxis, and its mathematician Archytas were renowned. The Byzantines captured Taranto in 545 during the Gothic wars, but abandoned it in 552. In 668 it belonged to Romuald, Duke of Beneventum. In 882 the Saracens, having been invited by Duke Radelchis to assist him, captured it and held it for some time. It was retaken by the Byzantines, who were forced to cede it to Otto II in 982; in 1080 it fell into the hands of Robert Guiscard, who made it the capital of the Principality of Taranto, and gave it to Boemund, his son. When the House of Anjou was divided, Taranto fell to Durazzo (1394-1463). In 1504 Ferdinand, King of Naples, valiantly defended this extremity of his kingdom, but had to cede it to Gonsalvo di Cordova. In 1801 it was taken by the French, who fortified the port; in 1805 the Russian fleet, allied with the British, remained there for several months. Taranto is the birthplace of the musician Paisiello.

According to the local legend, the Gospel was preached in Taranto by the same St. Peter who had consecrated St. Amasianus bishop. The city venerates also the martyr St. Orontius. The first bishop whose date is known is Innocentius (496). In the time of St. Gregory the Great, three bishops filled the episcopal chair: Andreas (590), Joannes (601), Honorius (603). It is uncertain whether St. Cataldus belongs to the sixth or the seventh century. Joannes (978) is the first who had the title of archbishop. It is well known that Taranto even under the Byzantines never adopted the Greek Rite. Stephanus perished in the battle of Nelfi (1041) fought by the Greeks and the Normans; Draco (1071) erected the cathedral ; Filippo (1138) was deposed for supporting the antipope Anacletus II, and died in the monastery of Chiaravalle; Archbishop Angelo was employed in several embassies by Innocent III ; Jacopo da Atri was slain (1370); Marino del Giudice (1371) was one of the cardinals condemned by Urban VI (1385). Cardinal Ludovico Bonito (1406) was one of the few who remained faithful to Gregory XII ; Cardinal Giovanni d'Aragona (1478), was son of King Ferdinand of Naples ; Giovanni Battista Petrucci suffered for the complicity of his father in the conspiracy of the barons; Cardinal Battista Orsini died in 1503 in the Castle of Sant' Angelo; Cardinal Marcantonio Colonna (1560) introduced the Tridentine reforms and established the seminary ; Girolamo Gambara (1569) was a distinguished nuncio ; Lelio Brancaccio (1574) suffered considerable persecution on account of his efforts at reformation; Tommaso Caracciolo (1630), a Theatine, died in the odour of sanctity. The city of Taranto forms a single parish divided into four pittagerii , each of which contains a sub-pittagerio . It includes the Basilian Abbey of S. Maria di Talfano, where there are still some Albanians following the Greek Rite. The suffragan sees are Castellaneta and Oria. The archdiocese contains 26 parishes, 214 secular and 47 regular priests ; 5 religious houses of men, and 12 of nuns ; and 220,300 inhabitants.


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