Castel del Monte

The medieval castle "Castel del Monte" (Italian for 'Castle of the Mount') proudly overlooks the comune of Andria, in the Italian region Apulia, from a hilltop at an altitude of 540m. Castel del Monte was built by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century.

Castel del Monte is built in an octagonal shape, with each of the eight corners sporting an octagonal tower. This makes the geometric design of this fortress (Frederick II built many castles in Apulia) unique, certainly at that time. It was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1996, and it is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Southern Italy.

Location on top of mountain        Castel del Monte        Within Castel del Monte
On top of the hill.                                           The remarkable shape                                    Inside Castel del Monte

In 1237, Frederick II gave orders to build a castle near Santa Maria di Monte Costro, as part of his network of strategically placed defensive castles and residences. The shape, however, doesn't make it look like a castle, as it lacks the original elements that are necessary for proper defense: it has no ditches, no drawbridge, no basement, but very large, marble-covered rooms, worthy of a lavish royal residence. The 26 metre high walls and towers (which were even higher in the past) and the thick, quartz-bearing limestone walls make it more than 'just a residence', though.

Architecture

The castle is built in the shape of an octagon, with a diagonal size of 56 metres. The octagonal plan represents the intermediate figure between the square (the symbol of the earth) and the circle, representing the infinite sky.

The structure has two storeys, each with eight interconnected chambers. From the towers you get on the roof terrace, paved with stone slabs arranged in a herringbone pattern. The panorama view from these terraces was a great strategic advantage during the Middle Ages, as you could see enemies approaching from miles away. Back in those days, all of the rooms were decorated with precious polychrome marble, mosaics, paintings and tapestries, but unfortunately Castel del Monte has been robbed by its treasures by looters and vandals. Most of the doors are still nicely decorated with colored marble, but nothing remains of the decor that gladdened the eyes of Frederick II.

UNESCO World Heritage

UNESCO included Castel del Monte on their World Heritage list in 1996. because they recognized the fortress as "[...] a unique masterpiece of medieval military architecture, a successful blend of elements from classical antiquity, the Islamic Orient and north European Cistercian Gothic."

Not only the shape was remarkable in the thirteenth century. Castel del Monte also has an advanced plumbing system, which used rain water for the toilets and bathrooms of the fortress.

Apulian heritage

Castel del Monte is not just World Heritage, but also very important Apulian heritage. The local inhabitants recognize the majestic role that the fortress has played in the history of the countryside that it overlooks and are proud to live nearby an often-praised architectural masterpiece.

In Europe, most people are very familiar with Castel del Monte, as they keep a picture of it in their wallets. The fortress is depicted on the reverse of the Italian 1 euro cent coin.

Visiting

March 1 to September 30 from 10:15 to 19:45
October 1 to February 28 from 9:00 to 18:45
(The ticket office closes 1 hour before closing)

Tickets:
Regular fee 5.00 euros, reduced fee €2.50 (18 to 25 years). Free for children under 18 and over 65 years.

Photos of Castel del Monte courtesy of .Paolo, Michel27 and cnadia. More photos at Historiaweb.                              Copyright: Paolo Rossi