Nola is a town and a municipality in the Metropolitan City of Naples, Campania, southern Italy. It lies on the plain between Mount Vesuvius and the Apennines. It is traditionally credited as the diocese that introduced bells to Christian worship.
Excavations at Nola-Croce del Papa have uncovered extensive evidence of a small village quickly abandoned at the time of the Avellino Eruption in the 17th century BC. This powerful eruption from Mount Vesuvius caused the inhabitants to leave behind a wide range of pottery and other artifacts. The foundations of their buildings are also preserved in imprints among the mud left by the eruption.
Nola was one of the oldest cities of Campania, with its most ancient coins bearing the name Nuvlana. It was later said to have been founded by the Ausones, who were certainly occupying the city by c. 560 BC. It once vied in luxury with Capua. During the Roman invasion of Naples in 328 BC, Nola was probably occupied by the Oscans in alliance with the Samnites. Amid the Samnite War, the Romans took the town in 313 BC.Under Roman rule, the city was the site of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battles of Nola during Hannibal's invasion of Italy amid the Second Punic War. On two occasions (215 and 214 BC), it was defended by Marcellus. It fell by treason to the Samnites during the Social War. It was stormed by Spartacus during his failed slave revolt. The emperor Augustus died nearby at his sumptuous villa at Somma Vesuviana on 19 August AD 14, in allegedly the same room his father died in 72 years earlier.
Augustus and Vespasian settled colonies in the area. In the Roman road network, Nola lay between Capua and Lower Nocera on the Via Popilia. A branch road ran from it to Abella and Avellino. Though a relative backwater, Nola retained its status as a municipium, its own institutions, and the use of the Oscan language. It was divided into pagi, the names of some of which are preserved: Pagus Agrifanus, Capriculanus, Lanitanus. The discoveries of the pavement of the ancient city have not been noted with sufficient care to recover most of the plan, but a large number of Grecian vases were made at Nola, using its fine yellow clay and a shining black glaze. They are decorated with red figures.
Following the rise of Christianity, it became a bishopric. One bishop, the Christian senator Paulinus, is traditionally credited with the introduction of the use of bells to Christian worship. His small handbells were subsequently known as nolas for his seat and the larger tower bells as campanas from the surrounding area. Revered as a saint, Paulinus's relics turned the town into a site of Christian pilgrimage.
Nola was sacked by Alaric in 410 and by the Vandals under Gaiseric in 453. It was raided by Muslim invaders in 904 and captured by Manfred of Sicily in the 13th century. Under Charles of Anjou, it was held by Guy de Montfort as the County of Nola. It was inherited by his eldest daughter's Orsini husband and then held by members of their family.
The 1460 Battle of Nola is noteworthy for the clever stratagem by which John, duke of Calabria, defeated Ferdinand, king of Naples, who fled the field with only 20 followers. Ferdinand, however, was supported by Pope Pius II, the duke of Milan, and the Albanian lord Skanderbeg. With his wife Isabella successfully wooing John's major supporters away, the king recovered his domain over the next decade. Nola itself subsequently lost its importance after its repeated destruction by earthquakes in the 15th and 16th centuries. The nearby Cicala Castle was the birthplace of Giordano Bruno (b. 1548).
In 1820, General Pepe's revolution began in Nola. The sculptor Giovanni Merliano was a native of the city; and some of his works are preserved in the cathedral.
Nola is a suburb of Naples. In the 1990s to the 2000s, a waste management crisis broke out in the city as a result of illegal dumping by the Camorra. Most of the waste was dumped between Nola, Acerra, and Marigliano, referred to as the "Triangle of Death". A 2004 study by Alfredo Mazza published in The Lancet Oncology revealed that deaths by cancer in the area are much higher than the European average.
Although Roman ruins, including an amphitheatre and temple to Augustus, survived as long as the 16th century, they were then plundered for building material and few signs remain. A few tombs are preserved, and results from excavations are displayed at the Archaeological Museum. Other sites include:
Nola Cathedral: a Gothic church (rebuilt in 1593, and again starting 1866)
St Thomas's (Basilica di San Tommaso; built in the 3rd century, decorated with frescoes 9–11th century, later renovated)
Old Cathedral (Basilica of SS Apostoli; according to tradition, first built AD 95, rebuilt 1190, reduced 1593, renovated in the Baroque style 1740s)
Orsini Palace (Palazzo Orsini; first built in 1470, later modified and renovated)
San Biago's, a late-Renaissance church decorated with polychrome marble and 17th-century Neapolitan paintings
The local seminary, which preserves the Cippus Abellanus Oscan inscriptions
Giordano Bruno monument
Gaius Octavius, politician and father of the Roman emperor Augustus, died at Nola in 59 BC
Augustus, founder of the Roman Empire, died at Nola 19 August AD 14
St Felix of Nola
St Paulinus of Nola, senator, bishop, and theologian
Giovanni Merliano, whose work is well represented in the cathedral
Ambrogio Leo, a doctor
Nicola Antonio Stigliola, a philosopher
Giordano Bruno, who referred to himself as the Nolano and his work as Nolana filosofia
Nicola Napolitano, brigand
Pasquale Russo, Camorra boss and founder of the Russo clan
Salvatore Russo, camorrista and boss of the Russo clan
Two fairs are held in Nola: one on 14 June and another on 12 November. The Festival of the Lilies (Festa dei Gigli) is held on 22 June or the Sunday beforehand, honoring St Paulinus. It lasts seven days, til the next Sunday. Eight lilies and a boat are made of wood and covered with papier-mache from the city's art shops. On the last day of the festival, the huge lilies are carried through the town on residents' shoulders along a route that has been followed for more than a thousand years. Each represents one of the local guilds or corporations, coming in the following order:
Butchers of pigs (Salumiere)
Butchers of other meats (Beccaio)
Dressmakers (Sarto)Each of the organizations is responsible for one day of the festivities. The 2010 festival—along with its fellows—was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.