The origin of Gaeta, history and tradition

The origin of Gaeta goes back to the VII century BC, when the town was a small village on the sea, located on a hill, called “Capuchins hill” in a leading position. At the beginning the village of fishermen and farmers developed around the religious neighborhood dedicated to the Saints Cosma and Damiano.

The old neighborhood of Saint Erasmo

During the centuries this medieval neighborhood, has been main character and eyewitness in crucial historical events, hosting important artistic and cultural sites. Nowadays this area is called “Old Gaeta”.

Saints Erasmo and Marciano Cathedral – Piazza Episcopio

The Cathedral of Saints Erasmo and Marciano was built between the X and XI century upon the church of Saint Mary of the Park. At its back, the amazing bell tower richly decorated with Arab-Norman ornaments that represent a marvelous example of medieval art, together with the Amalfi bell tower.

De Vio Palace and the Diocesan Museum – Piazza Cardinale De Vio, 7

The De Vio Palace, which used to belong to the cardinal Tommaso De Vio, hosts the Diocesan Museum, where it can be visited the amazing Pinacoteca, rich of paintings important from local artists such as Giovanni from Gaeta, Scipione Pulzone and Sebastiano Conca. Also, it can be admired a stunning canvas from the School of Giotto and a collection of Exultet Benedettini, besides the beautiful ceramics from the XV century.

The Pinacotheca hosts the famous Lepanto’s banner, realized by Girolamo Siciolante in 1536, blessed by the Pope Pius V and delivered to the Admiral Marcantonio Colonna, who lifted it on the major galley during the battle against the Turkish. The Christian fleet fought against the Turkish in the Gulf of Corinth, where the enemies were looting and sacking the Mediterranean coasts.

After the victory in Lepanto on October 7th 1571, Marcantonio Colonna came to Gaeta to fulfil the vow he had done before his departure: in the Dome of the city the Admiral had asked protection to Saint Erasmo, promising that in case he would have come back safe and sound, he would have given the Holy banner to honor the Saint.

Every year a lot of important exhibitions are arranged in this building. 

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Church of Saint Lucy also known as  Saint Mary in Peninsulis – Via Ladislao, 27

Built in the VII century, this church is probably one of the oldest in Gaeta. Recognized as Royal Chapel in 1387, King Ladislaus of Angiò Durazzo, son of Charles III, King of the two Sicilies, his wife Queen Constance Chiaromonte and his mother, Margaret Durazzo, started to pray in this church.

Church of Saint John at sea – Via Bausan, 26

Located in the Porticciolo area in Old Gaeta, the church of Saint John at sea, was commissioned by the duke of Gaeta, John IV. The church has a peculiar dome with high tambour, richly decorated with byzantine dichromate carved marble. The slope pavement was designed in order to allow water to be drained in periods of high tide. In the past the church was also known as Saint Joseph, because in 1628 on the current altar, the confraternity of Saint Joseph whose members were all carpenters was funded.

Annunziata Church (all’Incrocio tra Via dell’Annunziata e il Lungomare Caboto)

The Annunziata church located on the seafront was built in 1621 by Ferdinand the Catholic and by Charles V. The church is adjacent the Golden Chapel, also known as the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. This beautiful chapel was built in the XVI century, is completely wood crafted with gold details. Exactly in this chapel, Pius XI used to pray during his exile in Gaeta, and in 1854, the Pope was inspired for the drafting of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Saint Dominic Church – Via Aragonese

Built in the XV century in late Gothic style, the church has two different naves and a wide apse. It currently is part of a bigger monastery adjacent the sea.

Sorresca Saint Mary Church – Piazza Traniello

The church of Our Lady of Gaeta, built in exact point where, according to the legend with Virgin Mary appeared in 1513. The church is located in the old storage house of the Albito noble family; where there used to be keep safe the sorra, coming from the processing of tuna confectioned under oil and salt. On one wall, there used to be a beautiful painting “Virgin with child”, now preserved in the Annunziata Institute. The pavement, decorated with antique majolicas and with the city’s coat of arms. The church is no longer consecrated, but used for musical events and art exhibitions.

Angevin  and Aragonese castle – Piazza Castello

The castle, with its massive shape, is located in a strategic position on the surrounding land and sea, influencing, since its construction, the development of the original city center. The building is composed of two different structures, from different periods: the building lower down is the oldest and presumably built in 1229 by Frederic II of Sweden and added during the French domination by Charles XII of Angiò. The building above called Aragonese was built by the king and Emperor Charles V. The Angevin part of the castle today is managed by the University Of Cassino, while the Aragonese part by the Financial Police.

Saint Francis Church – Via Don Bosco

The construction of this building was requested by Ferdinand II in the years 1848-49, ordered by the Pope Pius IX, exiled in Gaeta. It represents the perfect example of Neo-gothic architecture in southern Italy. This church has been built upon an old monastery, where it is believed that Saint Francis has rested during one of his journeys.  

Giovanni da Gaeta Pinacotheca – Via De Lieto 2/4

This important picture gallery, not far from the Angevin castle, hosts interesting exhibitions all year around. For inquiries, please visit the website: or contact +39 0771 466346 – email: 

“Elena”: the new urban area of Gaeta 

Elena, the name of the more recently built part of Gaeta, comes from the name of the Italian Queen Elena. This part of the town has been built on the neck of Montesecco, which stretches on the hill adjacent the Gulf of Gaeta and the beach of Serapo. Not far from here, the Flavio Gioia nautical baseline and the marina.

Via Indipendenza

This narrow street, built in the VII century, was the first neighborhood in Elena, outside the gates of the old town. The first inhabitants who started to live here were fishermen and farmers. Nowadays it has become an attractive street, full of little shops and booths of greens and fish.

Lucio Sempronio Atratino Mausoleum

On the Atratina hill, it is still perfectly visible an impressive building with an elliptic shape. This building was built in 34 BF by Lucio Sempronio Atratino, a Roman consul. During the centuries the historical building has been despoiled many times and deprived of the precious travertine and of the marvelous marble decorations, which used to cover the travertine.