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(ACHERONTIA.)

This archdiocese, in the provinces of Lecce and Potenza, Italy, has been united since 1203 with the Diocese of Matera. It lays claim to a very early, even Apostolic, origin. Acerenza was certainly an episcopal see in the course of the fifth century, for in 499 we meet with the name of its first known bishop, Justus, in the Acts of the Roman Synod of that year. The town is situated on an elevated ridge of the Apennines whence the eye dominates both the Adriatic and the Mediterranean; it was known in antiquity as the high nest of Acherontia (Hor., Odes, III, iv, 14). The cathedral is one of the oldest and most beautiful in Italy, and has lately become quite famous for a bust long supposed to be that of St. Canus or Canius (Ascanius?) patron of the city, but now judged to be a portrait-bust of Julian the Apostate , though others maintain that it is a bust of the Emperor Frederick II, after the manner of the sculptors of the Antonine age. Acerenza was in early imperial times a populous and important town, and a bulwark of the territory of Lucania and Apulia. In the Gothic and Lombard period it fell into decay, but was restored by Grimwald, Duke of Beneventum (687-689). An Archbishop of Acerenza ( Giraldus ) appears in 1063 in an act of donation of Robert Guiscard to the monastery of the Holy Trinity in Venosa. For a few years after 968 Acerenza was forced to adopt the Greek Rite in consequence of a tyrannical order of the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus Phocas (963-969), whereby it was made one of five suffragans of Otranto, and compelled to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople (Moroni, Dizionario, L, 63). Pope Urban VI (1378-89, Bartolommeo Prignano), was once Archbishop of Acerenza. Matera is said to have been created a see by the Greeks. Its cathedral dates from the year 1000, and is likewise a richly ornamented specimen of contemporary ecclesiastical architecture in Southern Italy. The Archdiocese of Acerenza contains 22 parishes, 308 secular priests, and a few priests of religious orders. The population numbers 147,900. The present bishop is Monsignor Raffaele Rossi, successor (1899) of Monsignor Diomede Falconio, now Apostolic Delegate to the United States.


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