The Cathedral of San Matteo

Wanted by Sichelgaida and Roberto il Guiscardo, the Cathedral of San Matteo was built very quickly from 1080, shortly after the Norman duke conquered Salerno, on the ruins of an ancient early Christian basilica. At the time, the Benedictine doctor and Benedictine poet Alfano I was bishop of Salerno.

The structure of the cathedral was largely taken from that of the nearby Abbey of Montecassino, as can be seen from the presence of the longitudinal plan divided into three naves. There were elements of architectural novelty of Carolingian influence, such as the triapsed transept. The crypt of the Cathedral, then as today, kept the relics of the evangelist Matthew, brought to the city, according to the tradition of Gisulf I around 1000 AD.

It is said that until around 1830, these exuded a transparent and odorless liquid that was called “manna of St. Matthew“, which was collected by the faithful outside the crypt. Miraculous powers were attributed to it.

In addition to the remains of the Evangelist, the relics of the Salerno martyrs are also kept in the cathedral: Fortunato, Caio, Ante and Felice, who suffered martyrdom at the time of the persecutions of Diocletian (303-310 AD).

Externally the Cathedral has a large four-sided portico, in the center of which was a beautiful Egyptian marble fountain, moved in the Bourbon period to the municipal villa of Naples. For the portico the columns of the nearby Roman forum were recycled, surmounted by round arches and by a double lancet loggia, of Arab inspiration.

The magnificence of the cathedral, together with the other donations made in favor of monastic institutions by Robert the Guiscard on the advice of the princess, were to impress Pope Gregory VII, who had issued an act of excommunication against the duke after his refusal to defend the lands of the Church in Abbruzzo, devastated by the Normans: indeed the demonstrations of devotion and respect for Guiscardo convinced the Pope to take him back into the Church and withdraw the act of excommunication issued against him.

Subsequently Gregory VII will consecrate the Cathedral in 1084. The inauguration ceremony of the Cathedral of San Matteo was another victory for the diplomatic skills of Sichelgaita, who for the occasion gathered his subjects to ensure an honorable and festive welcome to the pontiff, who was positively impressed.

In the Duomo, Sichelgaita and Roberto celebrated the most significant events of their lordship, and many Salerno and wayfarers found refreshment there and gathered in prayer in front of the Evangelist’s remains. Over time the Cathedral has been enriched with frescoes, additional architectural structures and decorations; has undergone several subsequent renovations and restoration due to the earthquakes that have occurred in the area.