History of a family: the Acquaviva

The Acquaviva family took origin in Germany, from the royal blood of the Dukes of Bayern. They came down to Italy in the 10th century, and were granted large territories in the Marquisate of Ancona. Under the Swabian occupation they obtained large areas in Abruzzo, including the land of Acquaviva whose name they took on themselves.

They established blood relations with the Aragona family, and in this way added the latter's name to their own, becoming one of the seven great Houses of the Kingdom, together with the Sanseverino, D'Aquino, Ruffo, Del Balzo, Piccolomini and Celano. The main, first-born line became extinct in the Noya family, Princes of Sulmona.

The Sicilian branch became extinct in 1650, passing into the Sanframondo family. The first-born line of the della Ratta family, the counts of Caserta, became extinct in Caterina, the wife of Andrea Matteo d'Acquaviva in 1511. The Concublet line, Marquis of Arena, became extinct in Anna, the wife of Francesco d'Acquaviva, Duke of Atri and Count of Elda in 1708. In 1675 a member of the Diacetto family, related to the Dukes of Acquaviva at the time when the latter where deprived of their fiefdoms by the King of Spain, received the title of Duke of Atri: he added to his own the Acquaviva D'Aragona surname, to reassert his wife's rights to those fiefdoms. The branch of the Princes of Caserta and Marquis of Bellante became extinct in 1635. The branch of the Dukes of Atri passed into the Strozzi family, while the branch of the Counts of Conversano obtained the return of all possessions to their own House.

Among the Baronies that belonged to the Acquaviva were Basciano, Bisenti, Cermignano, Corropoli, Castel del Monte, Castrogerardo, Cellino, Colonnella, Forcella, Montesilvano, Montefusco, Montone, Montemaiella, Montebello, Montepagano, Raiano, Rapino, Ripattone, Rocca Santa Maria, Roseto, Sant'Omero, Rocchetta, Sant'Egidio, San Vito, Tortoreto, Scorrano. Among the Countdoms Capestrano, Conversano, Giulianova, Montorio (1383), Palena (1467). Among the Dukedoms the most important was Atri (1383), among the Principalities Caserta (1579) and Teramo (1484).

There were many great men in the Acquaviva family. Rinaldo, the ancestor of them all, obtained special grants from Arrigo V, who defeated the Normans and became king of Sicily. Antonio was Chamberlain of King Carlo III and Giustiziere (a kind of Governor) of Abruzzo. In 1390, when Louis II of Angjou (a French king) landed in Naples to fight Ladislaw II, the son to Charles III, he took advantage of the war to get into Teramo and conquered the city and its territory, including the Dukedom of Atri, killing its lord Antonello della Valle. Andrea Matteo III, who died in 1529, was a protector of artists and a writer and took part to the war between the Aragonese and the French. Claudio, (Atri 1543, Rome 1615) was a Jesuit General. Rodolfo, (Atri 1559, Cuncolim, India 1583), a nephew to Claudio, was a missionary and a Jesuit martyr in India. At the head of a mission on the Isle of Salsete, near Goa, he was slaughtered by four natives. Pope Leo 13th made him a Blessed in 1893.

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