Capestrano is remembered already in 1284, when Charles I assigned some of its territories to Riccardo di Acquaviva. In 1579, the town belonged to the Medicis, with Francesco I receiving it from the Piccolominis, who gave their name to the Castle. Still standing today in its integrity, the castle is a structure with a trapezoidal plan, three circular towers and a prismatic tower, where it is possible to admire the whole Tirino Valley. The church of Saint Mary of Peace dates back to 1643 where the bell tower was added only in the middle of the 1800’s. Worth remembering is Saint John’s Franciscan monastery, built in 1447. In its interior there is a museum holding the Saint’s belongings and a library with books and manuscripts, the oldest of which is a Pope Urban IV’s bull, dated April 18, 1262.
The town of Capestrano is known for the “Capestrano Warrior”, found by chance by a local farmer while preparing his field to plant vines. The warrior, whose name is Nevio Pompuledio, and dates back to the middle of the VI century b.C., is a male figure with arms folded on his chest, wearing a military attire and a characteristic wide-brimmed hat, imagined to be a parade helmet. Today , a symbol of the Gran Sasso National Park and an emblem of Abruzzo in the world, the statue is located in Chieti’s National Museum of Archeology.
Subsequent excavations, that allowed the finding of other fragments of the statue used to bring about its recomposition and restoration, also brought to light a necropolis with some tombs and funeral objects dating back to the period between the VI and IV centuries b.C. All this is found in Capestrano’s archeological area near Collelungo.
A splendor of medieval architecture is the Church of Saint Peter ad Oratorium, built in 756 by the Longobards’ King Desiderio, and renovated in the year 1000. In its interior, it is possible to admire a majestic ciborium from the 1200’s and a fresco representing Christ with the four Evangelists.
Outside, the famous “magic square” is sculpted on the façade, on the right of the main entrance.
“The Sator Square” is a recurring Latin inscription composed of the following five words: SATOR, AREPO, TENET, OPERA, ROTAS. Their juxtaposition, in the order indicated, forms a palindrome, that is: the phrase reads the same backward or forward. The inscription is present in archeological findings in Italy in stone-slab epigraphs as well as in graffiti, but the sense and symbolic meaning remain obscure, despite the numerous formulated hypotheses. In Italy, this particular magic square is present in archeological findings in Siena, Aosta, the province of Latina, Frosinone and Verona but it is also found in other European countries like England, France, Spain, Hungary and Switzerland.
It is difficult to establish the literal meaning of the five-word phrase since the word AREPO is not a Latin term. Here are the more noteworthy translations, although they remain obscure in their meaning, “The sower with the cart takes care of the wheels”, with reference to the sower of the Gospel; a simpler interpretation considers “Arepo” a proper name and goes as follows, “Arepo, the sower, holds the plough skillfully”. According to other theories, the words imply the Apocalypse and the enigmatic spirit of the letters making them up is so explained: the words can be used to make a cross in which the word “Paternoster” (our Father) crosses the letter N. Two A’s and two O’s are left over and they can be placed at the four ends of the cross as if they were the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.