Roman Bene Vagienna

The Vagienni

About two kilometers from the current city on the left of the Mondalavia stream in the region called Roncaglia, lie the ruins of the ancient Roman Augusta Bagiennorum. This was the capital of the Ligurian Vagienni, a population of Iberian origin who, according to ancient writers, occupied the territory between the Po and the Tanaro, roughly two-thirds of the province of Cuneo.

We have little information about the Vagienni. They were farmers who fiercely defended their freedom, first against the Carthaginians of Hannibal and then against the Romans. After more than a century of unequal struggle, Rome was able to overpower them around 125 BC and since then they followed with loyalty its fortunes for the whole duration of the empire.

Medieval Bene Vagienna

Once the old Roman city was destroyed as a result of wars and other lesser known reasons, there arose, by the refugees, a new village at the confluence of Mondalavia and Cucetta streams, in a place which was healthy and naturally easier to defend. This was the primitive nucleus of the city.

 

 

The Bishop’s Domain

The city took the name of Bene, derivation of the ancient Bagienna, and soon prospered so much that in 901, when the Emperor Louis III assigned it in possession to the Bishop of Asti, it was equipped with the Imperial Court and the Pieve (parish) and had a vast territory (about 7,500 hectares), much greater than the present.

The bishop’s domain lasted 500 years with some interruptions, among which deserves to be remembered the regiment period as a Free City in the first half of the thirteenth century. Bene then made alliances and wars and was treated equally to the bigger principalities of Northern Piedmont.

 

 

The Savoy and the Costa

In 1387 Amedeo of Savoy, Prince of Acaja, after a bitter struggle and the destroying of the city’s walls and castle, seizes Bene Vagienna: so began the domination of Savoy, who was, in line with the times, bringing peace and prosperity.

In the next century begins the feudal rule of Costas from Chieri (August 23, 1413) with the fief, by the last of Achaia, of Trinity, Carrù and Bene to Lodovico Costa, patrician of Chieri, his loyal vassal.

Was part of the same family the Countess Paola Gambara from Brescia, wife of Lodovico Antonio Costa. She died in 1515and th venerated corpse is still in the San Francesco Church.

 

 

Bene’s Transformation

Under the rule of the Costa important works of tillage and irrigation are performed and the city takes, in its streets and in its buildings; the aspect that still retains today. The Power of Bene’s Counts got lesser in more recent times (around 1550 to 1560) because of the alliance with the French in the war against the Spanish. With the help of Francis I of France, Giovanni Ludovico Costa, Count of Bene, did fortify the city on the designs of Francesco Horologi from Vicenza, in the decade of truce settled in Nice in 1538 between the  King of France and the Emperor Charles V. Bene was surrounded by fortifications with the demolition of villages outside (and in this period the demolition of the Church of the Rocchetta) and made the seat for a stranger strong garrison.

 

 

To the Savoy again

When Emanuele Filiberto, after the peace of Cateau-Cambresis (1559), is reassigned his possessions, Bene is also reintegrated in the Duchy of Savoy. Count Costa is forced to change Well with the suburbs of Pont Vesle and Castiglione d’Ombres and August 12, 1561, the delegates of the City of Bene have to pay to Emanuele Filiberto 12,000 gold crowns of Italy to be “liberated” from the rule of the Costas, and to not have to be enfeoffed or alienated “to anyone but the Prince of Piemonte” (based on the charts kept on the archive of the City).

In the seventeenth century the fortifications erected in the previous one (and many of which still remain) made Bene an important stronghold that had weight in the long struggles of the time. In 1614 the castle was visited by Captain Ascanio Vittozzi, engineer of Charles Emmanuel I, and on his opinion, it was ‘restored’ in 1615 and 1616 using money coming from Bene, Clavesana, Farigliano, Piozzo, Carrù, Trinity and Salmour.

 

 

Under French siege

The Earl of Harcourt puts Bene under siege in 1641, and managed to get it after winning the fierce resistance of the garrisons and the population: the city suffered and lost a lot in people and belongings, and many houses were set on fire. Bene was in the meantime getting dignifyed for the establishment of the collegiate of canons for the religious orders which had their headquarters and for the illustrious families who lived there. It got the title of “City” in the seventeenth century; In fact, Carlo Emanuele I (who reigned between 1580 and 1630) spontaneously agreed to the ‘loyal Bene’ the name and degree of Ducal City, as shown by the crest granted to it with the eloquent heraldic motto: Deo et principi. Bene was erected into a Principality.

Baroque Bene Vagienna

Bene is reborn

The second half of the ‘600 and the beginning of ‘700 represent for Bene an intense period of reconstruction, especially in public buildings that leave to the city, until then almost medieval looking, an imprint that still retains today.

Following the plagues that have hit this period, as a precautionary measure, the buildings of the City were smeared with lime and then plastered. In line with the stylistic needs of the time, the houses were reworked, making havoc of the pre-existing medieval characteristics. Proofs are the Parish Church, completed in 1659, the Church of San Francesco finished the same year as the wall part of town and in 1718 for the stucco decorations, the Capuchins around 1650, the Town Hall in 1728, the Brotherhood of San Bernardino in 1,721 churches and a number of oratory including the Epiphany or the Magi, many stately homes of the period of the regency of Madama Reale (Palace of Magistrates, already property of the Carezzo of Castelbosco, Palace of the Marquises of Villar then of Sicca, now headquarters of the Bank Credito Cooperativo, Ciriodi Palace Monastery, formerly of Oreglia of San Stefano, Lucerna Palace of Rorà already the Oreglia Novello etc …).

Remain visible testimony of the sumptuous baroque opulence, the redundant furniture and furnishings that we find scattered not only in the numerous Bene’s churches, but also in private homes.

 

 

Other domains

Bene was occupied in 1796 by Napoleon’s troops; then after the armistice of Cherasco was passed under the French garrisons and bears the “imposition” of the revolution and empire.

With the return of the Savoy, Bene’s history merges and unifies to that of Piedmont and Italy. The only relevant note is the “attribution” by the City Council in the second half of the last century, of the title “Vagienna” in memory of its former inhabitants.

Modern Bene Vagienna

The Bimillenary of Augusta Bagiennorum

In the year 2000, the people livin in the City celebrated the two thousandth anniversary of Augusta Bagiennorum, the ancient Roman city founded in the Augustan age, from which originates Bene Vagienna.

The city of Bene Vagienna wanted to “score” in a special way this event with a series of events and cultural dates, the outcome of which has also served to indirectly boost tourism, culture, art and the typical products of the area through the return of image that was achieved.

It was crucial to take the opportunity of the celebrations to rediscover the city and its surroundings not only to the Italian public, but to a wider European audience, thanks to some targeted initiatives: it was thought to start twiinnings with European cities founded by the Romans. It was a unique opportunity thanks to which Bene Vagienna has proposed to renew the interest and attention towards a region rich in culture, traditions, natural attractions, and offered all the reasons to attend this historic celebration.

 

 

Bene Vagienna today

The eras that have marked the ancient history of Bene Vagienna have profoundly marked its urban fabric. The citadel is surrounded by mighty walls of defense, almost entirely visible, tracing a pentagonal shape.
The visitors that enter the old town, divided in neighborhoods of St. George, St. Mary, St. Eustatius and St. Juvenal, are usually hit by the medieval layout of the districts overlooked by the Baroque style buildings.

The narrow streets, the wide porches, the rich brotherhoods, and palaces with elegant lines are important testimonies of past glories.

In the old town you can count seven churches in which are collected precious works of art in addition to the important relics preserved in the Civic Museum, housed in the noble Lucerna palace Rora. Despite Bene Vagienna is a center of modest size it can boast an enviable economic dynamism. Apart from agriculture, a pillar of the local economy, there are also important entrepreneurial reality engaged in mechanical, yarn, printing and banking. Next to economic activities operating on an industrial scale, it continues to survive the ancient craft of skilled craftsmen: carpenters, blacksmiths, restorers, confectioners who carry on the traditions.

 

 

An evergreen City

There are also numerous opportunities for recreation and social initiatives in the city: there are in fact many associations involved in cultural, sports and cultura activities. A renewed vitality is winding Bene Vagienna for some years now.

As evidenced by the numerous appointments which take place in spring and autumn, and which offer the opportunity to get the general public to know the traditions, folklore and history of the city. On the occasion of the patron saint festivities of San Gottardo, from May to the end of June, alternating exhibitions, guided tours, games, dances and sports competitions.

In the end, how to define Bene Vagienna if not an ancient city of old Piedmont where history, art and tradition come together in an original combination.