HISTORY of Sant’Omero

Sant’Omero is a borgo located in the province of Teramo exactly on a hill halfway between the Val Vibrata and the Salinello Valley.

Initially, Sant’Omero was not built in this precise spot but further downstream. The most notable traces date back to Roman times when noble families settled in the Vibrata valley with the construction of two large agglomerations: Castrum Rufi (whose remains are still visible today) with the possessions of Lucio Tario Rufo from which the toponym of the current hamlet of Garrufo and Vicus Stramentarius (Temple of Hercules) where today the current church of Santa Maria a Vico is located, built on the remains of the ancient temple in the 10th century. A.D.

To date, the church of Santa Maria a Vico is the oldest existing church in Abruzzo and an absolute pride for the citizens of Sant’Omero.

Inside the church, an inscription relating to the cult of Hercules was discovered in 1885: “For the services of the ‘stepmother’ Claudia Edonia, for the anniversary of her son Imerius, the devotees of Hercules and their descendants who are inscribed in this marble after having sworn on Jupiter Optimus and on the genius of the emperor Trajan, they decide to set up a banquet in the temple of Hercules, every year on February 8, in honour of the emperor Trajan. If the celebrations cannot take place, they decide to pass, as a penalty, the sum of 200 sesterces to the lovers of the image of Trajan, always located in Vicus Stramentarius “

And it is with this writing that the myth became a legend, because the origins of the name Sant’Omero are still far from certain.

Some historians agree that Sant’Omero was initially called Sant’Imero in honour of the son of Claudia Edonia and that over time due to incorrect transcriptions it had become Sant’Omero.

On the other hand, there are those who argue that Sant’Omero derives from Saint’Omer, a French twin and the only one in the world to call himself in a similar way. To corroborate this theory, history confirms that at the fall of the Roman Empire, due to the barbarian invasions, the local population had to take refuge in more sheltered places and in fortifications built on the hills, thus having to leave the pre-existing buildings. Sant’Omero would therefore have been fortified by the Normans who settled in the area and named after the birthplace of the fortified: Saint Omer.

Sant’Omero Historic City Centre

From 1154 it was a fief of Gualtiero di Rinaldo and a possession of the Acquaviva di Atri from 1528 to 1639.

In 1639 Sant’Omero was bought by Alvaro de Mendoza who lived permanently in the town until his death. Don Alvaro was well-liked by all the citizens and on his death by testament the Monte dei Maritaggi was founded. Basically a patrimonial fund for the donation of dowry to poor girls of his possessions.

In 1860 Sant’Omero first passed under the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and subsequently became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Since then the beauty and fascinating history made Sant’Omero one of the most important unknown places on earth.

Who was Lucio Tario Rufo?

Lucio Tario Rufo was a senator and officer of the Roman army who was elected consul in 16 BC.

Already an elderly senator, Tario Rufo was appointed “curator aquarum”, officially in charge of the Roman aqueducts, between 23 and 24 AD.

He was a friend of both Augustus and Tiberius. Great wealth was conferred on him by Augustus which he used to purchase large plots of land in the Piceno area (most likely all the land from Tronto Valley to the Salinello River).

Although he was known for his avarice, he spent more than 100 million sesterces in these lands in order to increase his social standing.

At that time a temple dedicated to Hercules was also built wherein the 10th century the Church of Santa Maria a Vico was then constructed.


What to see:

Chiesa S.Maria a Vico

S.Maria a Vico under the stars

The pre-Roman Church of Santa Maria a Vico is the symbol of Sant’Omero and perhaps the symbol of Teramo’s county. It was built near a vicus, on top of the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Hercules.

It’s the most ancient Church in Abruzzo, probably one of the few goings back further than the year 1000.

Unfortunately, we are unable to know exactly the date of the build but many historians agree to be around the X sec A.c.

The whole building has a basilica shape and during the centuries has been many times renovated with some additions to the building.

The building front belongs to the works that took place in the fourteenth century when the bell tower was added. The bell tower is located on the first span of the left aisle.

Instead in the central space, there is the rose window added during a nineteenth-century restoration.


Le Pinciare

Those are typical houses built-in straw and chaff. We are unable to know the exact date of when those were built, probably during the French invasion in the early 19th century.

It is a very characteristic and common building mostly in the plain land all around Sant’Omero.


Church of Sant’ Angelo Abbamano

This tiny little church was probably built after the barbaric invasion of Italy on top of a Roman building. We are unable to know exactly what the roman building was, probably a public bathroom, perhaps of a cistern or another building. In fact, the area was known as SANT’ANGELUM AD PUTEUM, due to the probable presence of a source of sulphurous waters, today dried up.

This building is a real mystery. Roman remains are still visible inside the church and outside the building. And many legends talk about the church being looted many times during the centuries.

In the 20th century, near the church, an ancient grave was found. But the historians were unable to determine the origins of it. The church was built along the ancient Roman road called “Metella Vecchia”, this road was used by the Romans to lead the armies in the Pretuzio and in the Piceno, but it was certainly also used by the inhabitants of this valley to reach Rome.

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