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(SIPONTINA)

The city of Manfredonia is situated in the province of Foggia in Apulia, Central Italy, on the borders of Mount Gargano. It was built by King Manfred in 1256 not far from the ruins of the ancient Sipontum, destroyed by an earthquake in 1233. Sipontum was a flourishing Greek colony; having fallen into the hands of the Samnites, it was retaken about 335 B. C. by King Alexander of Epirus, uncle of Alexander the Great. In 189 B. C. it became a Roman colony, and in A. D. 663 it was taken and destroyed by the Slavs. In the ninth century, Sipontum was for a time in the power of the Saracens ; ln 1042 the Normans made it the seat of one of their twelve counties. The latter won a decisive victory there over the Byzantine general Argyrus in 1052. According to legend, the Gospel was preached at Sipontum by St. Peter and by St. Mark ; more trust, however, may be placed in the tradition of the martyrdom of the priest St. Justin and his companions under Gallienus and Maximian about 255. The first bishop, whose date may be fixed, was Felix, who was at Rome in 465. In the time of Bishop Lawrence, during the reign of Gelasius I (492-496), took place on Mt. Gargano the apparition of St. Michael, in memory of which the famous Monastery of the Archangel was founded. About 688 Pope Vitalian was obliged to entrust to the bishops of Benevento the pastoral care of Sipontum, which was almost abandoned, but the see was re-established in 1034, and under Bishop Saint Gerard (1066) it became an archdiocese. The ancient cathedral remained still at Sipontum, but, with the building of Manfredonia, the archiepiscopal see was transferred to the latter city. Among the other bishops were Matteo Orsini (1327), later cardinal ; Cardinal Bessarione (1447), administrator ; Niccolò Pecotto (1458), a Greek scholar and theologian ; Giovanni del Monte (1512), subsequently pope under the name of Julius III ; Domenico Ginnasio (1586), who suppressed the use of the Greek Rite at the high altar of the cathedral of Sipontum, a custom which had obtained until his day; Antonio Marcello (1643) who founded the seminary and restored the cathedral destroyed by the Turks in 1620; Vincenzo Orsini (1675), afterwards pope under the name of Benedict XIII. In 1818 the Archbishop of Manfredonia was made perpetual administrator of the Diocese of Viesti, a see that dates at least from the eleventh century. The archdiocese is divided into 16 parishes ; contains 101,800 faithful, 1 religious house of men and 4 of women, and 4 educational institutes for girls.


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