Gaeta, Archdiocese of (CAIETANA), in the province of Caserta in Campania (Southern Italy). It is the ancient Caieta, situated on the slopes of the Torre di Orlando, a promontory overlooking the Mediterranean. Gaeta was an ancient Ionian colony of the Samians according to Strabo; legend, however, derives its foundation from Caieta, the nurse of Aeneas or Ascanius. Among the ancients it was famous for its lovely and temperate climate. Its port was of great importance in trade and in war, and was restored under Antoninus Pius. Among its antiquities is the mausoleum of Lucius Munatius Plancus. As Byzantine influence declined in Southern Italy the town began to grow. In the ninth century (840) the inhabitants of the neighboring Formire fled to Gaeta through fear of the Saracens. Though under the suzerainty of Byzantium, Gaeta had then, like Naples and Amalfi, a republican form of government under a “dux” or lord. It was a strong bulwark against Saracen invasion, and in 847 aided Leo IV in the naval fight at Ostia. Later, however, looking rather to local safety, its dux, Docibilis, entered into treaties with the Saracens. From the end of the ninth century the principality of Capua claimed it, as a title for the younger son of the prince. In 1039 Gaeta, with Amalfi and Naples, acknowedged the rule of Guaimario, Duke of Salerno; about forty years later with the whole duchy of Salerno it became part of Robert Guiscard‘s new Norman territory.
In the many wars for possession of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Gaeta, owing to its important strategic position, was attacked as often and as bravely as it was defended. In 1194 the Pisans, allies of Henry VI in the conquest of the kingdom, took possession of the town and held it as their own. In 1228 it rebelled against Frederick II and surrendered to the pope, but after the peace of San Germano (1230) it was given back to the Sicilian kingdom. In 1289 Don Jaime of Sicily tried to gain possession of it, but failed. In 1435 Alfonso V of Aragon (Alfonso I of Naples) besieged it, and displayed great generosity, to his own disadvantage, by succouring those unable to bear arms who had been driven out from the besieged town. After a disastrous naval battle he captured it, and gained control of the kingdom. In 1501 Gaeta was retaken by the French, who, after the defeat of Garigliano (January 3, 1504), abandoned it to Gonsalvo de Cordova, Ferdinand the Catholic‘s general. In the War of the Spanish Succession it was captured (1707) by the Austrian general Daun, after a stubborn resistance made by the Spanish viceroy. In 1806 Massena took it; finally it became the last refuge of Francis II of Naples. After an heroic defense it capitulated February 13, 1861, thus sealing the annexation of the Kingdom of Naples to the Kingdom of Italy. Cialdini, the Piedmontese general, received the title of Duke of Gaeta.
This city has often been the refuge of illustrious personages: among others, of Gelasius II, who was born there: of Margaret, Queen of Naples (1387): of Gregory XII (1410) after the capture of Rome by Alexander V; finally, of Pius IX (1848), during the Roman revolution. The cathedral contains the relics of St. Erasmus, transferred from Formiae, and is a handsome building dating from the twelfth century; the campanile, in Norman style, dates from 1279. The church of St. Francis, built by Frederick II, is in very fine Gothic-Italian style, and contains paintings and sculpture by many of the most famous Neapolitan artists. The Chapel of the Crucifix is a curiosity. It is built on a huge mass of rock that hangs like a wedge between two adjoining walls of rock. Legend tells how the rock was thus split at the moment of our Savior’s death. The episcopal see dates from 846, when Constantine, Bishop of Formiae, fled thither and established his residence. The See of Formic, abandoned since the end of the sixth century, was there-after united to that of Minturno (Minturnie). In 1818 Pius VII joined to Gaeta the very ancient See of Fondi. It was once a suffragan of Capua, then directly subject to the pope. Pius IX raised it to archiepiscopal rank, without suffragans. Among its bishops of note were: Francesco Patrizio (1460), friend of Pius II, author of a work in nine books, “De Regno et De Institutione Regis”, dedicated to Alfonso, Duke of Calabria; and Tommaso de Vio, better known as the famous Cardinal Cajetan. The Archdiocese of Gaeta has now 42 parishes with 83,600 faithful, 3 monasteries for men, 9 convents for women, and 2 Catholic weekly papers.