The Sedile Dominova is located in Via San Cesareo, really close to the main square of Sorrento: Piazza Tasso.
The seat was built in the 14th (some say 16th) century, by some nobles and is completely covered by frescoes. This was the place where nobles meet in order to talk about the problems of the town. After being a prison and a guard-house, today the seat has turned into an association, with some wise old man playing cards.
In the heart of Sorrento, in via San Cesareo, the monumental Sedil Dominova building (overlooking the vast area known as Schizzariello (splash), in reference to a fountain from which water constantly squirted), which was the seat of some of Sorrento’s nobility, prominently displays on its front the plaque: “Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso” .
The inscription reminds Sorrento’s inhabitants and visitors to the town that, since 1877, the building, after having been frequented by the town’s nobility, has housed an association founded to guarantee workers the first forms of mutualism, anticipating the state’s social insurance and welfare system.
Among the most important places, considered the most authentic soul of the inhabitants of a town, those where its inhabitants gathered are worthy of interest. It’s this characteristic that makes an interesting walk in Sorrento along Via San Cesareo to Sedil Dominova: a building of great importance not only for the history of the town, but also because it’s the only survivor of the ancient noble seats in all of Campania, those in Naples having been destroyed. Via San Cesareo is Sorrento’s siege road.
When you take this road from Piazza Tasso, you’ll find on the left the building (now much altered from its origins) designated as the first political meeting place for the town’s nobles: the Sedile di Porta.
The Sedil Dominova, built in the 14th century, is linked to important pages in Sorrento’s history: that of its people. Its construction was the result of fratricidal struggles between nobles. In particular, we remember the bloody events of January 1319 in the courtyard of the Mastrogiudice house.
Many patricians took up arms for old enmities arising from the administration of the town. They were soon joined by family and servants. To calm the fighting, Bishop Riccardo had to go down among the combatants: dressed in sacred vestments, with his cross raised, the bishop put an end to a battle strewn with dead and wounded. After this serious event, the patrician families, who until then had all belonged to the Sedile di Porta, the seat of the city’s administration (with a governor), decided that a separation was necessary.
The nobles residing in the western part of Sorrento erected the monumental building where they gathered separately, which was called Domus Nova and later Dominova. The Vulcano, Mastrogiudice, Sersale, Capace, Nobilione, Molisano, Donnorso, Boccia, Orefice, Marziale, Cortese, Teodoro, Carlino and Spasiano patrician families joined them.
In 1877, when the Società Operaia was founded, Sedil Dominova became the headquarters of the association for the mutualist activities of Sorrento’s workers. The Sedile di Porta, rebuilt in 1506, has lost its ancient features over the centuries.
The 15th-century structure of the Sedil Dominova remains largely unchanged: two sides open to the exterior through large semicircular arches in piperno, with archaic capitals. The dome, covered with typical majolica tiles, is of more recent date: a work carried out in the 18th century by the Naples tile-maker Chiajese. The walls of the outer room are adorned with frescoes featuring motifs close to the school of Sorrento painter Carlo Amalfi.
The connection stems from the similarity of certain works in the Sacro Real Consiglio de Castel Capuano in Naples, executed in the 1700s by the same painter, with those of Sedil Dominova. The symbolic architecture, featuring angels, columns and crowns, is reminiscent of Carlo Amalfi’s frescoes. Particularly noteworthy is the coat of arms of the town of Sorrento that surmounts the entrance to the inner room. The frescoes were certainly executed in the 1700s, as there is evidence of the payment of 52 ducats to the painter of ornaments Gaetano Petagna for the restoration of the inner part of the cupola (year 1803).