Cori is an Italian town of 10.858 inhabitants in the province of Latina in Lazio and is one of the richest villages in historical evidence among the centers of the province of Latina.
Hilly urban center of the north-western Lepini mountains that is about 3 300 years old, in ancient times it was known as Còra, historically divided between Cori Monte and Cori Valle, is formed by three districts, is located north of its province, on the border with that of Rome is halfway between the Pontine plain and the Castelli Romani.
The legends narrate the divine origins of Cori, whose ancient name was Còra (Còre in archaic Corese dialect): according to one of these narratives, Cora was founded by the Trojan Dardano, another mythology tells that the town was built by a king of Alba Longa, yet another tells us that the founder was Aeneas. After the town was destroyed, Corace, a veteran of the Trojan War, would have landed on the remains of the same, would have rebuilt it, giving it its name. The name may actually derive from the archaic Latin Corax (Crow), intended as a totemic animal.
Cori is the ancient city of Cora that the myth wants founded in a period between the thirteenth and twelfth centuries BC. Recent archaeological discoveries have revealed the stable presence of a settlement dating back to the Bronze Age. The first historical sources include Cora among the oldest of the Prisci Latini, the original nucleus of peoples of Latin lineage organized in a federation of sovereign states. Subsequently the territory was invaded by the Volsci, a people of Umbrian origin. Cora enjoyed full autonomy so much so that it minted its own currency called the “Koran”. In the year 642 BC  King Tullo Ostilio, after the destruction of Alba Longa, asked for the subjugation of the Latin cities. The Latin League responded to this claim with war. The coalition was led by Publicio Anco di Cora. At the end of the conflict 300 hostages from Cora and Pometia were killed in the Roman Forum by Appio Claudio. With the dissolution of the Latin League and the submission to Rome of the individual cities that made it up, Cora obtained the status of a federated city, or an allied state, which it maintained until the general administrative reform of Italy implemented by Rome after the civil war.
In 1870, following the unification of Italy, Cori was included in the Province of Rome (obtaining Giulianello as a fraction), subsequently in 1934, after the foundation of Littoria (today’s Latina), the town passed under the administration of newly born province of Pontina. After the annexation to the Kingdom of Italy, the population of Cori benefited from some innovations: electricity, hospital, new roads, railway, fountains, new school. Tensions between peasants and landowners were frequent.
With the unity of Italy and the end of the Papal State, the city was annexed first to the province of Rome and then to that of Littoria, now Latina.
During the two world wars, the number of Cori citizens who perished on all fronts was high. After the rubble and deaths that left the Second World War, consequences of the Landing of Anzio (which was mentioned in an episode of the program La Grande Storia di Raitre in 2004), Cori underwent, in a few decades, economic, urban and social changes.
Let’s start our tour in this lovely village in the province of Latina!
The Chapel of the Ss. Annunziata in Cori
The chapel, built in 1411 by the powerful Spanish cardinal Pedro Fernandez De Frias, was part of an Augustinian complex of medieval origin built in the early 13th century near the city center. The rectangular chapel with a large barrel vault is entirely painted and represents one of the most important pictorial decorations of the late Gothic of Lazio.
The client cardinal was also archbishop of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and had the Corese chapel decorated according to the iconographic models depicted in the medieval Vatican church. A complex history of commissions and patronages continued and completed the decoration of all the walls on the death of Cardinal De Frias in 1420.
Two other Spanish cardinals, Alfonso Carrillo de Albornoz and Juan Cervantes de Llora, had the works completed together with the nobleman Juan de Tovar , leaving their coats of arms together with that of the crown of Castile, the region of origin of all the protagonists.
The Municipality of Cori also participated in the pictorial decoration by commissioning the grandiose Last Judgment of the counter-façade from the painter Pietro Coleberti, completed around 1430.
Another workman created the majestic figures of Apostles in the lower register which for the pictorial quality were attributed to a collaborator of the great Florentine painter Masolino da Panicale, a friend of Masaccio in Rome and Florence.
The Oratory of the Annunziata is located on the edge of the road that, since the Middle Ages, connected Cori to Via Pedemontana. In the Oratory there is the Chapel of the Santissima Annunziata, with its frescoes probably made in three periods and completed around the middle of the 1400s.
The Oratory preserves a cycle of frescoes with such intense colors that they seem to have been painted yesterday and for this reason it is also called the “Scrovegni Chapel of Lazio”, a splendid iconographic model of the medieval St. Peter’s Basilica. The cycle of frescoes is a story in images of the most famous episodes of the Old and New Testament, including the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi, the Apostles and an impressive Last Judgment located on the entrance wall. Commissioned by Spanish Cardinal Pedro Fernández de Frías and later completed thanks to the intervention of Cardinals Alfonso Carrillo de Albornoz and Juan Cervantes de Lora, over the centuries it became a pilgrimage destination for Italian and Spanish travellers. The monument is protected by the MIBAC – Polo Museale del Lazio, in collaboration with the Pro Loco of Cori.
Church of S. Oliva
The church of S. Oliva in Cori is one and many together: a pagan temple, a medieval church that has grown over time, an entirely frescoed chapel. A journey through the centuries not to be missed.
Who was dedicated to the temple that originally stood on the square, at the confluence of the most important streets of Cori? It is still a mystery. For a long time, it was thought that it was in honour of Janus, based on an inscription affixed to the facade of the church, but the hypothesis is very controversial. Instead, it could be a female divinity, given the discovery of a hand perhaps of a woman belonging to a statue over 4 meters high.
All we know is that the building was built between the third and first centuries BC, it had a pronaos in front of the cell with four front columns in the Ionic or Corinthian style, and was of impressive size: about 10 meters wide and 17 long, it rested on a 2 meter high podium which was accessed by a staircase. Today, few traces remain, including a column next to the main portal of the current church and a column inside, immediately to the left of the entrance.
In the 12th century the temple was incorporated into a church with a bell tower dedicated to S. Oliva di Anagni, patron saint of Cori. The church had a singular double arched entrance, closed and replaced with a portal at the end of the fifteenth century.
The bell tower, which alternates layers of limestone and tuff, is decorated at the top with three polychrome bowls. Those exhibited are copies, while the originals are kept in the Museum of the city and territory. The terminal part of the structure dates back to the 17th century.
The interior was divided into three naves in the 13th century, and the two rows of central columns were added at the end of the 15th century. The paintings, from different periods, depict Christ Pantocrator on the vault surrounded by the Evangelists and, on the wall, St. Christopher crossing the river with the baby Jesus on his shoulders (early 14th century); on the altar of the back wall, S. Oliva between S. Monica and S. Agostino (last twenty years of the 15th century); on the sides, S. Vito and the Madonna (XVII century).
In the counter-façade a fresco of the Last Judgment is partly covered by the choir (17th century). In the apse dominates a fresco of the apostles and coronation of the Virgin between angels and saints (1507). At the same time as the Chapel of the Crucifix, the Augustinian convent (1467-1481) was built behind the church, today the seat of the City and Territory Museum.
The Cyclopean Walls
Work of the Cyclops or of man? The surrounding walls, or Cyclopean walls, rise in various points of Cori, and with their grandeur they tell of ancient legends.
Walking through the streets of the historic center, it often happens to come across sections of the city walls, or Cyclopean walls, as everyone in Cori calls them. According to a medieval legend, in fact, those walls of enormous boulders could not have been the work of man. Of course, the Cyclops must have built them, and some swore they had even seen them.
The walls include an external wall, for defense, and internal terracing, necessary to build on the steep terrain of the hill. They were erected in different eras, which are distinguished by the precision with which the boulders are wedged together. The external defensive wall, without towers, was built between the 6th and 5th centuries. BC, at the time of the Volsci invasion. Among the points where you can see them best, via Don Minzoni, just above S. Oliva, via Pelasga, via della Repubblica (Le piètre), piazza Pozzo Dorico.
There were three entrances to Cori: Porta Signina, Porta Ninfina and Porta Romana, which, as the names say, stood respectively on the roads to Segni, Ninfa and Rome. They were all of the “fool” type, that is, structured in such a way as to be able to attack enemies on the right flank, discovered by the shield. These gates have always given their name to the three districts into which Cori is divided, and which today compete in the historic Carousel of the districts.
In the second century. B.C. semicircular defensive towers were added, which are still seen here and there. The best preserved can be admired from Piazza Signina, but there are others, for example in Piazza della Croce and along Via dei Lavoratori.
In the Middle Ages, the so-called quadrangular “tower-houses” were added to these: scattered throughout the urban fabric, they served to control the viability and were inhabited. An example of this is the tower located on via Accrocca, near piazza della Croce.
The Temple of Hercules
The temple of Hercules was built during the Silla dictatorship, between 89 BC. and 80 BC on the top of the hill on which the city of Cora had risen, at 398 meters above sea level, at the behest of two local magistrates, whose name is engraved on the door lintel.
The temple owes its state of conservation to the transformation into a church: in fact, the church of San Pietro was installed inside the cell, destroyed by Allied bombing in 1944.
The building is tetrastyle, that is with four columns on the main front.
Four other columns on each side delimited the pronaos, beyond which the cell opened. The eight columns of the temple, of Doric order, have been preserved, as well as the entablature and the pediment. The temple strongly recalls the Italic Templar tradition, deriving from Etruscan and Republican examples.
The depictions and objects found on site, mainly votive gifts with an anatomical shape, suggest that the temple was instead dedicated to a female goddess, probably Juno.
The location of this site and its grandeur make it a very suggestive place. The apparently Ionic architecture is in Italic style with evident Hellenistic influences, which can also be seen from the layout of the entrance that was in front of the cult statue.
At the end of the 1700s the parish church was built next to the temple, demolished during the war in 1944, whose bell tower stood right from inside the temple cell. In the following period the bell tower was demolished and rebuilt outside the perimeter of the temple, where it still stands today.
Cloister of the Augustinian Convent
The cloister of the Augustinian convent: a portico with 27 capitals one different from the other on the upper floor, a masterpiece of fifteenth-century sculpture, and a frescoed portico on the lower floor. It is not surprising that the hermits found peace of soul here.
The convent rises above and to the right of the church of S. Oliva and dates back to the years between 1467 and 1480. Today it is part of the City and Territory Museum.
The real pearl is the cloister, around which the whole structure develops. Don’t miss the cycle of 27 marble capitals upstairs, all different from each other, displaying a series of complex images and symbols. And the effect must have been even more amazing originally, when the capitals were colored. It was built by Antonio da Como in 1480, as the inscriptions on the columns tell. The artist’s Lombard origin made the cloister of Cori different from any other in the area (almost all are by Tuscan masters and all have identical capitals). The corner solution was also very modern for the time: a square pillar with two semi-columns leaning against it.
The portico on the ground floor, on the other hand, has Ionic capitals and was frescoed in about 1600 by Gerolamo da Segni with images from the life of the patrons of the Augustinian order: S. Agostino, S. Monica and S. Nicola da Tolentino.
The coat of arms of the client, Cardinal Guillaume d’Estouteville, stands out on the entrance door of the cloister and on the three central columns of the second order.
The Augustinian convent develops around the cloister, on two orders. On the ground floor were the sacristy and the chapter house, while on the upper floor the rooms of the hermits, the refectory and, above the church of S. Oliva, the cardinal’s apartment. In the chapter room, the images of the Crucifixion between the Madonna and S. Agostino and of S. Oliva between S. Nicola di Tolentino and S. Monica (late fifteenth century) are by the same master who painted the apse of the chapel of the Crucifix, perhaps Desiderio from Subiaco.
The entire structure of the convent and cloister was commissioned by Ambrogio Massari, general of the Augustinians of Corese origin, and by Cardinal Guillaume d’Estouteville, bishop of Ostia and Velletri and protector of the order. In 1455, Massari entrusted it to the Augustinians, who remained there until 1845. When the convent was suppressed, also the feast of S. Oliva, which until the seventeenth century had been the most important of Cori, declined. The festival fell on the first Sunday of August and included the race of the poles and a cattle fair that lasted eight days.
Torrecchia Vecchia is a territory located on the border between Cisterna and Cori. In recent times, its beauty has also been rediscovered thanks to the municipal initiative Cisterna delle Meraviglie, which brought over 400 people to visit the garden. Finally, even the elementary school children of Cisterna di Latina were able to appreciate the beauty of the territory of this Foundation in an initiative for environmental awareness.
Torrecchia Vecchia is a Foundation that has become a natural monument of Lazio, totally immersed in the woods and hidden from everyone’s gaze, it seems to want to keep its beauty for itself. In fact, for many years it was like this and this wild and magical place remained known only to those who lived there and those who worked there. Today and for a few years, Torrecchia Vecchia has returned to be looked at, to be explored. Inside we can find history in all its eras from the Volsci to the Middle Ages, a bridge and a Roman mill, an ancient medieval castle, an extensive estate where there are woods and agriculture and livestock farming and tuff caves where numerous Cisternesi found refuge and safety during the bombing of the Second World War.
The green area, for the most part made up of tall woods (secular oaks), is of particular ecological, naturalistic, faunal and archaeological value. It is located in the municipalities of Cisterna and Cori; it covers about 450 hectares, all grouped together, of hilly terrain covered by tall woods interspersed with clearings of permanent natural meadows. The most interesting element of the reserve is the flora characterized by cork oak (Quercus suber), downy oak (Quercus pubescens), holm oak (Quercus ilex) and evergreen Mediterranean scrub.
Towards the edge of the reliefs, the shrub layer is well structured with the presence of viburnum, broom, hawthorn, and butcher’s broom. In the riparian areas of waterways, the presence of hazelnut (Corylus avellana), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), ash (Fraxinus ornus), cork oak (Quercus suber), holm oak (Quercus ilex), field maple (Acer campestre) ) and a very varied and rich undergrowth. There are also other typical plants of the Mediterranean scrub such as the strawberry tree, the mastic tree, the spazzaforno with small white flowers, the heather, the phillyrea. There is also the Turkey oak, an oak with elongated and deciduous leaves. The wood is made up of downy oaks, Turkey oaks, hornbeams, limes and maples, with specimens of considerable shapes and sizes. In the Torrecchia Vecchia estate, various monumental trees have also been surveyed, cork trees of 4 meters in circumference that can exceed 14 meters in height.
The fauna is represented by hares, porcupines, badgers, hedgehogs, blackbirds, turtledoves, quail, wood pigeons, woodcocks, thrushes, nightingales, but above all by birds typical of woodland environments, such as the green woodpecker, the great spotted woodpecker, the hoopoe, the nuthatch and nocturnal birds of prey such as the barn owl and the owl. There is also the southern squirrel, and the dormouse.
Sanctuary of the Madonna del Soccorso
The Sanctuary of the Madonna del Soccorso is a sanctuary dedicated to the cult of Mary, mother of Jesus, located just outside the town of Cori.
The origins of the sanctuary are linked to a tradition that refers to the apparition of the Madonna by a child from Cori. On 4 May 1521 the little Oliva, trying to reach her mother who was going to harvest the fields, got lost in the mountains of Cori, disoriented by a sudden storm. He took shelter under a broom plant where the Virgin appeared, who protected her from bad weather for eight days and fed her. When the child was found she described the experience she had lived and, for her innocence, she was believed. Among other things, the Coresi found, near the apparition described by the little Oliva, an icon of the Madonna.
Already in 1521, a chapel containing the image of the Madonna was erected on the site of the miraculous event. But already sixteen years later, having increased the number of devotees, a church was erected to which the primitive chapel was also annexed. The pilgrimages continued to intensify so that in the following century, in 1634, it was essential to expand the church. The project was entrusted to a Roman architect, Mario Arconti, who also directed the works completed in 1639, the year in which the new sanctuary was inaugurated.
In the same year of the consecration to the sanctuary, an image of the Madonna was donated, perhaps of the Florentine school, dating back to the fourteenth century. In the 1950s a large complex was built next to the church to house novice students of the Trinitarian order, which today is a retirement facility for the elderly.
The interior of the church, in Baroque style, has a single vaulted nave. The presbytery area is instead covered by a dome surmounted by a lantern.
On the sides of the nave there are four altars, two on each side, dedicated to Saint Pasquale Baylón, to Saints Girolamo and Carlo Borromeo, to the Holy Family and to Saint Lucia virgin and martyr. At the end of the nave, before the presbytery, on the left opens the access to the Chapel of the Apparition, on the other side the entrance to the sacristy. The high altar flanked by two Doric columns was donated by the local nobleman Lorenzo Buzi.
The painting of the Madonna has come to our days after many restorations and superimpositions; the Madonna is seen sitting on the throne with a cloak while holding the Child Jesus in her left arm; above two angels holding a crown; to the left of the Virgin the little girl Oliva, wrapped in a red dress, kneeling.
The facade of the church is characterized by a portico formed by three round arches. Since 1938, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Soccorso has been entrusted to the care of the Fathers of the Trinity.
On the second Sunday of May the traditional religious festival dedicated to the Madonna del Santuario takes place, accompanied by a procession in which figures dressed in period costumes appear.