MELFI, a city and episcopal see of Basilicata, Italy, in the province of Potenza, 30 m. by rail N. of the town of that name. Melfi is picturesquely situated on the lower slopes of Monte Vulture, 1591 ft. above sea-level. Pop. (1901), i4,S47- The castle was originally erected by Robert Guiscard, but as it now stands it is mainly the work of the Doria family, who have possessed it since the time of Charles V.; and the noble cathedral which was founded in 1153 by Robert's son and successor, Roger, has had a modern restoration (though it retains its campaniles) in consequence of the earthquake of 1851, when the town was ruined, over one thousand of the inhabitants perishing. It is the centre of an agricultural district which produces oil and wine. In the town hall is a fine Roman sarcophagus found 6 m. W. of Venosa.
Melfi does not seem to occupy an ancient site, and its origin is uncertain. By the Normans it was made the capital of Apulia in 1041, and fortified. The council held by Nicholas I. in 1059, that of Urban II. in 1089, the rebellion against Roger in 1133 and the subsequent punishment, the plunder of the town by Barbarossa in 1167, the attack by Richard, count of Acerra in 1190, and the parliament of 1223, in which Frederick II. established the constitution of the kingdom of Naples, form the principal points of interest in the annals of Melfi. In 1348 Joanna I. of Naples bestowed the city on Niccolo Acciajuoli; but it was shortly afterwards captured, after a six months' siege, by the king of Hungary, who transferred it to Conrad the Wolf. In 1392 Goffredo Marzano was made count of Melfi ; but Joanna II. granted the lordship to the Caracciolo family, and they retained it for one hundred and seven years till the time of Charles V. An obstinate resistance was offered by the city to Lautrec de Foix in 1528; and his entrance within its walls was followed by the massacre, it is said, of 18,000 of its citizens.
See G. de Lorenzo, Venosa e la regione del Vulture (Bergamo, 1906).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)