The meaning of the name “Mossano” is still discussed. Some think the name has an erudite origin from the Latin mons sanus (healthy mountain), others believe it comes from the Latin personal name Mussius, yet both explanations lack substantial proofs. It is more likely that the origin of this name be some non-Latin word, like muzzus, that describes some characteristics of the local landscape.
The steep, cave-scattered, sun-exposed slopes provided ideal living areas for man since the Paleolithic Era. In Mossano traces of prehistoric living have been found in two caves: S. Bernardino’s and Paina Caves. Archaeological enquiries have been carried out in these two caves for more then 30 years by scholars of the renowned Paleontology Department of the Science Faculty of Ferrara University, first under the surveillance of Professor Pietro Leonardi, and lately under that of Professor Alberto Broglio. A hearth discovered in S. Bernardino’s cave had scholars to move back of 20.000 years the start fire-using by men, and the oldest examples of hearth-related industry has been named bernardinian, because of the ground-breaking discoveries made in this Berici Hills site.
But there’s more then just prehistoric facts about S. Bernardino’s Cave: the cave was named after the Franciscan Saint when he came to Vicenza from 1423 to 1433, on his tour of preaches against usury. S. Bernardino would stay at the Franciscan monastery of S. Pancrazio in Barbarano Vicentino, but would go to meditate to the Palù Cave, as it was then called. When the Saint left, the cave became a shrine, and its interior was decorated.
This cave was also the scene of a terrible massacre: in 1510, during the Cambrai War of the European powers against the Republic of Venice, imperial troops, after conquering Vicenza, moved southwards, to assault the castle of Longare. Longare’s castle resisted, and the irritated troops started pillaging the countryside around. Civilians in their hundreds ran for shelter to the cave, but their hideaway was discovered: the imperial troops set fire to bundles and pieces of wood they had amassed at the entrance to the cave, smothering all the refugees to their death. More then 1200 people died. Since then, on the 20th of May, S. Bernardino’s Day, the event is remembered by a procession and a memorial Mass.
Another unique and picturesque site of Mossano is the architectural complex called le prigioni (the prisons), located on the private property of Villa Giulia, built by digging in natural cavities to obtainstaircases, rooms, doors and windows, still visible and well preserved. According to the bishop’s name of this place, it is confirmed that the property belonged to the bishop of Vicenza and was used as a guard post and fortress to control Mossano and its possessions in the territory.
During the 13th century, Mossano was owned by Counts Pilo of Sossano. The valley of Mossano used to be a swamp, and we know there were even two lakes, in Montruglio and in Mezzana. This abundance of water was employed to make 12 mills work. A thermal waterspring is also present in Mossano, now abandoned, but once much attended by locals, as Filippo Pigafetta mantains: “Healthy springs of hot water can be found there, made accessible by my family for the benefit of the sick”.