Domenico da Gravina

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Domenico da Gravina (* early 14th century in Gravina in Puglia; † after 1350) was an Italian historian. He wrote in Latin a chronicle entitled Chronicon de rebus in Apulia gestis, which is an important historiographical source for the history of the Kingdom of Naples in the period from 1333 to 1350.


Information on the biography of Domenico da Gravina is available only in his own chronicle. He takes his name from the town of Gravina in the Kingdom of Naples, where he was born. Professionally he worked as a notary.

Domenico da Gravina took a lively part in the political turmoil of his fatherland and had to endure many a discord in the process. When Joan I succeeded her uncle Robert in the government of the kingdom of Naples in 1343, violent quarrels soon arose between the supporters of the queen’s husband, Andrew of Hungary, and the party of Prince Louis of Taranto, who had won the confidence and love of Joan. The strife ended with the assassination of King Andrew (September 1345) and the matrimonial union of John with Louis of Taranto. King Louis I of Hungary, however, in order to avenge his brother Andrew, went to Italy with an army at the end of 1347 and conquered Naples in January 1348. After his departure, Joan returned and a civil war ensued between the parties, prompting the King of Hungary to make a second campaign to Naples in April 1350.[1]

Like all of Puglia, the town of Gravina, which had fallen to Johanna’s sister Maria, wife of Duke Charles of Durazzo, in 1344, became embroiled in the conflicts of the period. Unlike the Italian historian Albano Sorbelli, who published Domenico’s chronicle in the 1900s, Mario Caravale does not believe that Domenico joined the Hungarian party as early as 1345 after the murder of Johanna’s husband Andrew. Rather, Domenico reports in his chronicle the accusation made against him that he had participated in the conspiracy against Andreas and in his killing. However, the chronicler firmly rejects this accusation, which probably already arose at the end of 1345.[2]

More precise details of Domenico’s life are provided by his chronicle for the period beginning in the last months of 1348. Until then, the town of Gravina had remained loyal to the Duchess of Durazzo. The ducal captain Pietro di San Felice governed the town. However, probably fearing a military intervention by Stephen Laczkfy, voivode of Transylvania, left behind by King Louis I as commander in the Kingdom of Naples, he resigned from his post in 1348. Angelo Gualteri was now elected in his place. Domenico da Gravina may also have remained loyal to the Duchess of Durazzo until then, as he presided over the Castle of Gravina. He seems to have switched to the opposing side only at the beginning of 1349, when the voivode Stephen decided to appoint Nicola di Angelo di Monte Sant’Angelo as town captain of Gravina. The latter first sent two scouts to Gravina, who were hosted by Domenico in his house. Domenico also arranged for a meeting to be called at the beginning of February 1349, in which the inhabitants of Gravina elected the voivode’s candidate as town captain and instructed Domenico and two other townspeople to inform Nicola di Angelo of this decision.[2]

Although the inhabitants of Gravina had briefly defected back to the Duchess of Durazzo under pressure from her supporters after Domenico’s departure, and Domenico – together with Nicola di Angelo – found the gates of Gravina Castle locked on his return, the Hungarian party soon gained the upper hand. Nicola die Angelo entered the city on February 9, 1349, while the leaders of the opposing party fled to Roberto di Sanseverino. Domenico da Gravina went to Barletta to the voivode Stephen, took part in the subjugation of Ruvo and Terlizzi carried out by Hungarian troops and then received a force led by Giovanni Chutz. After a victory over Roberto di Sanseverino, the Hungarian party controlled Gravina and its territory.[2]

Soon after the commander Chutz had left Gravina again with his garrison troops, Roberto di Sanseverino again moved against the town. This time Domenico, who had again travelled to Barletta, asked the voivode in vain for help. Despite Domenico’s opposition, the leaders of the Hungarian party who remained in Gravina then decided to eliminate their internal opponents. Domenico also failed to prevail with his proposal to defend Gravina against Roberto di Sanseverino’s attack. Instead, most of the members of the Hungarian party, deeming resistance futile, left the city on 28 April 1349. Domenico joined them, taking only his eldest son Gregorio with him, while his mother, wife and three younger children remained in Gravina.[2]

Via Corato, Domenico da Gravina made his way to Monte Sant’Angelo, Barletta, and finally Altamura, where he reunited with his wife, mother, and son Cola. His other two children were held hostage in Gravina and his property there confiscated by his enemies. Probably in June 1349 he moved to Bitonto. From there he continued to fight on the Hungarian side, advancing in vain against Gravina, and in 1350 took part in an attack on Somma Vesuviana. His two children still remaining in Gravina were eventually allowed to join him in Bitonto as well. Because of the breaking off of his chronicle in 1350, nothing is known about Domenico’s further fate.[2]


Domenico da Gravina’s work of history, entitled Chronicon de rebus in Apulia gestis, is a primary source for the warlike conflict between Joanna I and Louis I of Hungary over the Kingdom of Naples (1348-1350), especially for the military conflicts in Apulia at that time. The chronicle, which was probably written in 1349/50, provides information about some events that are not otherwise known. It has been preserved only in a single manuscript of the 14th century (probably the autograph), now preserved in the Austrian National Library. This manuscript is mutilated at the beginning and at the end, but still contains the narrative of the southern Italian events from 1333 to 1350. On the other hand, one misses at the beginning the introduction about the reign of King Robert of Anjou and at the end a part of the story of the second march of the King of Hungary to Naples. The chronicle concludes with the definitive renunciation of Louis I of the Kingdom of Naples.[1][2]

Lodovico Antonio Muratori first edited Domenico’s work of history, which does not strictly follow chronological order, (in the Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, vol. XII, Milan 1728, pp. 549-722) and drew attention to its importance. After further editions, Albano Sorbelli organized an edition of the Chronicle as part of the new edition of the Rerum Italicarum Scriptores (vol. XII, 3, Città di Castello 1903-1909). Although Domenico da Gravina is entirely on the side of the Hungarians and praises their deeds and conduct, so his judgments about Joan and her followers must be taken with caution, Sorbelli thinks that the chronicler is mostly relatively objective in his account of events and remains faithful to the truth. He does not, however, seem to have first-hand knowledge of the events just before and after the assassination of Andrew of Hungary at the Neapolitan court. The narrative is clear but unengaging, and dragged by the inclusion of some insignificant facts.[1][2]


  • Philipp H. Külb: Gravina (Domenico da). In: Johann Samuel Ersch, Johann Gottfried Gruber (eds.): Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste, 1st Section, vol. 88 (1868), p. 300.
  • Mario Caravale:DOMENICO da Gravina. In: Massimiliano Pavan (ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 40: DiFausto-Donadoni. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 1991.


  1. a b c Philipp H. Külb: Gravina (Domenico da). In: Johann Samuel Ersch, Johann Gottfried Gruber (eds.): Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste, 1st section, vol. 88 (1868), p. 300.
  2. a b c d e f g Mario Caravale:DOMENICO da Gravina. In: Massimiliano Pavan (ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 40: DiFausto-Donadoni. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 1991.