Gerace, Diocese of (HIERACENSIS), in the province of Reggio in Calabria (Southern Italy), on a lofty site overlooking the Ionian Sea, not far from Cape Spartivento. The city probably owes its origin, or at least its importance, to the ruin of the town of Locri Epizephyrii, one of the earliest Greek colonies in Lower Italy, founded by the Ozolian Locrians (684-680 B.C.) and endowed with a code of laws by Zaleucus. Through its advanced civilization and its trade Locri Epizephyrii was brought into prominence. It suffered much during the wars of Dionysius the Younger and of Pyrrhus, and in the Second Punic War, when it passed into the hands of the Romans, retaining, however, the ancient constitution of Zaleucus. Its decay dates from this period. Before its total ruin, Locri Epizephyrii had a bishop of its own; but in 709, under Bishop Gregory, the see was transferred to Gerace.
The name Gerace is probably derived from Saint Cyriaca, whose church was destroyed by the Saracens in 915. They captured the town in 986, but in 1059 it fell into the hands of the Normans. Until 1467 the Greek Rite was in use at Gerace, and such had probably been the custom from the beginning. As early as the thirteenth century efforts were made to introduce the Latin Rite, which accounts for the schism between Latins and Greeks about 1250-1253. The latter demanded as bishop the monk Bartenulfo, a Greek, whereas Innocent IV, in 1253, appointed Marco Leone. In 1467, Bishop Atanasio Calceofilo introduced the Latin Rite. Among bishops of note are: Barlaam II (1342), Abbot of San Salvatore at Constantinople, and ambassador from the Emperor Andronicus to Benedict XII, apropos of the union of the two Churches. Barlaam at one time had opposed the idea, but later recognized his error, and Clement VI bestowed on him the See of Gerace. He taught Greek to Petrarch, Boccaccio, and others, and was thus one of the first of the Italian humanists. Bishop Ottaviano Pasqua (1574) wrote a history of the diocese. Another bishop, Giovanni Maria Belletti (1625), wrote “Disquisitiones Clericales”; Giuseppe Maria Pellicano (1818) rebuilt the cathedral, destroyed by an earthquake in 1783. Gerace is a suffragan of Reggio; it has 69 parishes, and 132,300 souls; 1 religious house for men, and 3 for women.