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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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(anc. Caietae Portus), a seaport and episcopal see of Campania, Italy, in the province of Caserta, from which it is 53 m. W.N.W. by rail via Sparanise. Pop. (1901) 5528. It occupies a lower projecting point of the promontory which forms the S.W. extremity of the Bay of Gaeta. The tomb of Munatius Plancus, on the summit of the promontory (see Caietae Portus), is now a naval signal station, and lies in the centre of the extensive earthworks of the modern fortifications. The harbour is well sheltered except on the E., but has little commercial importance, being mainly a naval station. To the N.W. is the suburb of Elena (formerly Borgo di Gaeta). Pop. (1901) 10,369: Above the town is a castle erected by the Angevin kings, and strengthened at various periods. The cathedral of St Erasmus (S. Elmo), consecrated in 1106, has a fine campanile begun in 1 The New English Dictionary has nothing to say. Webster gives the etymology gad well =go about well. Dr R G. Latham suggested that it was taken from the syllables quedil, of the Lat. querquedula, a teal. The spelling "gadwall" seems to be first found in Willughby in 1676, and has been generally adopted by later writers; but Merrett, in 1667, has "gaddel" (Pinax rerum naturalium Britannicarum, p. 180), saying that it was so called by bird-dealers. The synonym "gray," given by Willughby and Ray, is doubtless derived from the general colour of the species, and has its analogue in the Icelandic Grdond, applied almost indifferently, or with some distinguishing epithet, to the female of any of the freshwater ducks, and especially to both sexes of the present, in which, as stated in the text, there is comparatively little conspicuous difference of plumage in drake and duck.

860 and completed in 1279, and a nave and four aisles; the interior has, however, been modernized. Opposite the door of the cathedral is a candelabrum with interesting sculptures of the end of the 13th century, consisting of 48 panels in bas-relief, with 24 representations from the life of Christ, and 24 of the life of St Erasmus (A. Venturi, Storia dell' ante Italiana, iii. Milan, 1904, 642 seq.). The cathedral possesses three fine Exultet rolls, with miniatures dating from the iith to the beginning of the 13th century. Behind the high altar is the banner sent by Pope Pius V. to Don John of Austria, the victor of Lepanto. The constable of Bourbon, who fell in the sack of Rome of 1527, is buried here. The other churches are of minor interest; close to that of La Trinita is the Montagna Spaccata, where a vertical fissure from 6 to 15 ft. wide runs right down to the sea-level. Over the chasm is a chapel del Crocefisso, the mountain having split, it is said, at the death of Christ.

During the break-up of the Roman empire, Gaeta, like Amalfi and Naples, would seem to have established itself as a practically independent port and to have carried on a thriving trade with the Levant. Its history, however, is obscure until, in 823, it appears as a lordship ruled by hereditary hypati or consuls. In 844 the town fell into the hands of the Arabs, but four years later they were driven out with help supplied by Pope Leo IV. In 875 the town was in the hands of Pope John VIII., who gave it to the count of Capua as a fief of the Holy See, which had long claimed jurisdiction over it. In 877, however, the hypatus John (Ioannes) II. succeeded in recovering the lordship, which he established as a duchy under the suzerainty of the East Roman emperors. In the 11th century the duchy fell into the hands of the Norman counts of Aversa, afterwards princes of Capua, and in 1135 it was definitively annexed to his kingdom by Roger of Sicily. The town, however, had its own coinage as late as 1229.

In military history the town has played a conspicuous part. Its fortifications were strengthened in the 15th century. On the 30th of September 1707 it was stormed, after a three months' siege, by the Austrians under Daun; and on the 6th of August 1 734 it was taken, after a siege of four months, by French, Spanish and Sardinian troops under the future King Charles of Naples. The fortifications were again strengthened; and in 1799 it was temporarily occupied by the French. On the 18th of July 1806 it was captured, after an heroic defence, by the French under Massena; and on the 18th of July 1815 it capitulated, after a three months' siege, to the Austrians. In November 1848 Pope Pius IX., after his flight in disguise from Rome, found a refuge at Gaeta, where he remained till the 4th of September 1849. Finally, in 1860, it was the scene of the last stand of Francis II. of Naples against the forces of United Italy. Shut up in the fortress with 12,000 men, after Garibaldi's occupation of Naples, the king, inspired by the heroic example of Queen Maria, offered a stubborn resistance, and it was not till the 13th of February 1861 that, the withdrawal of the French fleet having made bombardment from the sea possible, he was forced to capitulate.

See G. B. Federici, Degli antichi duchi, consoli o ipati della cittd di Gaeta (Naples, 1791); Onorato Gaetani d'Aragona, Mem. stor. della citta di Gaeta (Milan, 1879); C. Ravizza, Il Golfo di Gaeta (Novara, 1876). (T. As.)

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Gaeta'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​g/gaeta.html. 1910.
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