History of Rignano Garganico

See Rignano Garganico guide for highlights and historic monuments

In medieval times, Rignano Garganico was a military fortress (“Castellum Rigian") built on the "Via Sacra Langobardorum” to defend the area from external raids (the road had been built to improve communications with Monte Sant'Angelo). Of this original castle there are still the remains of a square tower, and some old houses in the neighbourhood.

Rignano Garganico was for centuries ruled by several families of feudal origin. The first lord of the city was Count Tancred (1138-1194), son of Roger II (1095-1154); in 1158  it was a fief of the “Montesacro” Abbey.

In the first half of the 17th century it belonged to the Barons of Corigliano, then for most of the 19th and 20th century the small town was devoted mainly to agriculture, and had a high rate of emigration. After the Second World War the economic life of Rignano was revived by the establishment of any industrial plant connected to the processing of the beets.

Today the city economy is also promoted by tourism, as it provides artefacts and sites of great interest. While it is of medieval origin, the Rignano area was inhabited from the prehistoric times, as evidenced by the remains found in archaeological sites that arise in its surroundings including:

  • the “Paglicci” Cave, where some wall paintings were found that enabled scholars to trace the exact period of the historical artefacts, namely the Upper Palaeolithic.
  • the “Spagnoli” Cave
  • the “Lamasecca” Dolmen in the Plain of the "Madonna of the Christ"

Origins of the name Rignano Garganico

From the etymological point of view, Rignano was generally interpreted as a praedial place-name with suffix "-anus", named after an ancient Roman landowner. According to M. Doria, '' Regnano ' and 'Rignano ' are common names in different parts of Italy, but they can assume different Latin names, like "Rinius",  “Rennius”, “Rimnius”, “Rinnius”, “Rumnius” and “Arinius" [1].

The first appearance of the name "Rignano" dates back to the Middle Ages, in a document dating back to 1029, with regard to some lands donated to the Abbey of San Giovanni in Lamis, in which it is referred to as "Monte guardie ‘Riniani’" (the genitive of "Rinianus").

Studying the records  of the Holy Trinity of Cava Abbey, J.M. Martin emphasized that "Rignano appears from 1029” [2]. The document, very rare, was published entirely by G. Del Giudice, and here we report the (translated) basic passage:

“[...] the 'Catapan' was the commander in chief of the Byzantine army in Italy, given Abbot of the Monastery of ‘San Giovani in Lamis’, monks and their posterity in January (...) We give them land and localities in the following boundaries: from the so-called 'Monte di guardia di Rignano' along the way to San Andrea (...); including places along the road that leads to “Monte di guardia di Rignano" [3].

The mention of Catapan Christopher dates this deed of gift to 1029, when he was present in Italy. Over the centuries, Rignano was also known by other names, including, for example, "Castellum Rigian" and this name is mentioned in documents published by L. A. Muratori, one of the great Italian scholars of the 18th century (1672-1750), recalling certain historical events of Apulia:

"[...] Lothario [795-855] (...) went to Puglia, seizing by force of arms the Castel Pagano, a mighty fortress, and then King Roger (1095-1154) blinded the governor Richard because, according to King, he had not opposed the required resistance to the enemy . Then Roger sent the Duke Conrad 'to oppugnandum ‘Castellum Rigian’' ['to win ‘Rigian’ castle'], whose inhabitants soon surrendered "[...]" [4].

Riniano was also known as 'Rinianum' in a document relating to Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250), dating back to 1204, which speaks of a place "apud Rinianum” [near Rignano] [5]; Riniano is sometimes also quoted such as "Ariniano", which, as indicated by M. Manicone, "is mentioned throughout the Kingdom with the name 'Rignano' or 'Regnano'."

We conclude by noting that, in past centuries, about the etymology of Rignano, some scholars said that the name derives from "Ara Jani" (Temple of Janus); in this regard, M. Manicone, adds that:

"it was said that Rignano was so named because here there was a temple, or 'Ara Jani'" [6].

Although this etymology, today, is not usually highly regarded, it was noted that in some documents the city's name is written with the letter "j" (Ra-j -niani), so the:

"[...] Handwriting 'Ra-j-niani' derives from 'Ara Jani,' the temple of Janus. The hypothesis is of undeniable interest, because it acknowledges the value of the near Janus’ Shrine, which among other things I consider irrefutable, because it is related to the  age-old rites [of the Gargano area] [...]" [7].

Finally, "Garganico" (the region name) was added to "Rignano" to distinguish it from other Italian small town having the same name.

See the Rignano Garganico travel guide.


1. See M. Doria, “Un percorso culturale fra Micene e Trieste” [" A cultural route between Mycenae and Trieste”], Forum, 1998: 339

2. See J.M. Martin, "Les Actes de l'Abbaye de Cava concernant le Gargano”, Società di Storia Patria per la Puglia”, 1994:  11

3. See Appendice I, “Collezione di alcuni diplomi di Catapani d'Italia”, in Giuseppe del Giudice, “Codice Diplomatico del Regno di Carlo I e II d'Angiò”, Napoli, Stamperia della Regia Università [Appendix I," Collection of some Catapan Diplomas  of Italy ", in Giuseppe Giudice," Diplomatic Code of the Reign of Charles I (1716-1788) and II (1661-1700)  of Naples, Naples, the Royal University Printing House, 1863:  XIV

4. See L.A. Muratori, “Annali d'Italia”, ["Annals of Italy"], Vol IV, Prato, Giachetti, 1868: 43

5. See E. Loescher, “Regesto di San L. di Siponto”[ " Summary of St. L. Siponto”], 1913: 88

6. See M. Manicone, "La Fisica Daunia", by L. Lunetta, I. Damiani, Editions of History and Literature, 2005:  155

7. see “Storia, Antropologia e Scienze del Linguaggio” ["History, Anthropology and Language Sciences”], Bulzoni, 2000: 60