ECHO Molise
  Emigration and Cultural Heritage of the Molise
Bonefro Overview & Origins
OVERVIEW
Population:
1,685
828 families
0.7 % over 90

Altitude:
620 meters 
2,034 feet

Area:
31.11 sq km
12 sq miles

Gentilic:
Bonefrani

Patron Saint:
San Nicola
8 & 9 May,
6 December

As always, we attempted to gather information from the most credible sources (References), including for example, the Comune of Bonefro.  We particularly want to recognize Professor Michele Colabella’s documentation of the history and traditions of Bonefro and the Molise.  For the information here and on the Bonefro Map and Sights page, we relied heavily on, translated and summarized a small portion of his vast body of work.

We were not able, however, to discover the author of the following passages (translated from Italian) describing the Bonefrani "race":

          They Had Their Jealous Dominion

        

"The flatlands belonged to the peasants of Bonefro and Ripabottoni  They inhabited the masserie from times immemorial. These peasants were born and died on those lands, and they handed them on to heirs or yielded them in their daughters’ dowries;  and today, after many births and many deaths, those resilient peasants ended by constructing single large families that arose on the secularity of their earth."
 


"They were of a race of briganti when occupied.  They had constructed the first huts with logs of trees and mud, and how far their eye could see had placed stakes and stones, and recorded and delimited the borders.  For years they had cultivated the earth; working also in the night. And in the nights, often, shootings were ignited in the dark. They defended their conquest from the Pugliesi and Lucani races. For years they worked with a gun on their flank, and constructed the farms and the barns, the towns and the fields. It lacked water, however. They dug pools. They scattered the ground everywhere, coming down until thirty meters underground, and finally discovering the sources, they channeled, they constructed ducts to them and they obtained irrigation and gardens.  They had their jealous dominion.”

(Author Unknown)

 

Origins and Legends

 

Bonefro has existed at least 1,000 years, called various names including Venifro, Venefro, Venafrio, Vanafro, Biniferum, Binifro and Benifro.  By 1049, the abbot Richerio recorded the castle of Bonefro among the “Castelli del Contado di Pantasia.” The name probably derived from the Latin vinifer, meaning “producer of wine.  A more interesting legend ties first settlers of Bonefro to another Molise town, Venafro.

 

Il ratto delle donne venafrane

In the month of May, over 1000 years ago, long before the castle was built… a band of rough and wild shepherds, unable to find their own wives, spied a group of pilgrims from Venafro along the tratturo, and devised a plan to kidnap the women.  The Venafrani, unable to fend off the kidnappers or later find their women, returned to Venafro with sorrowful hearts.  The women, forced to remain with their assailants, gave to their newly established village the name Venifro, in honor of their home.

 

It is impossible to know the accuracy of the tale, but it makes for interesting speculation.  Larino Bishop Tria tells a version in his 1744 report to the Archbishop, and by 1824, Gabriel Cotugno tells the Venafro perspective—describing similarities in dress and manner between the peoples of Venafro and of Bonefro.

 

The folklore continues:

Three particularly sorrowful couples of the young Venafrani victims could not resign themselves to separation. The men searched as far as the River Cigno, refusing to return home without their brides. For the pureness of their love, there the Heavens transformed the men into three large boulders, known today as Trè Cchendune.  Their wives cried so much, the tears formed a spring under their new town.  The Heavens, filled with compassion, turned the women into white doves that still look upon the Trè Cchendune from Pesco Palombo. 

 

See photos of the town today at
 the Bonefro Map & Sights page.

 References

Amministrazione Comunale.  Bonefro.  Guida Turistico Culturale.  Realizzione Publigraf, 1986.

 

Colabella, Michele.  Binifero, Una Storia Millenaria, Milano: 1999.

 

Ibid.  Bonefro “Gente Foretana.”  Isernia:  Cosmo Iannone, 1999.

Ibid.  L’Università della Terra di Venifro:  Storia e Cronaca di Bonefro dale Origini ai Nostri Giorni, Campobasso: 1974.

 

Comune di Bonefro.  Il Paese. 

 

Cotugno, Gabriele.  Memorie Istoriche di Venafro, Napoli: 1824.

 

Molise: Patrimonio da scoprire-conoscenze da valorizzare.

  

Tria, Giovanni Andrea.  Memorie storiche civili ed ecclesiastiche delle città, e diocese di Larino, Roma: 1744.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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