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castel de monte

Castel del Monte, Andria’s Mystery Fortress

castel de monte

Situated on a soft green hill 20 kilometers from Andria, nestled in the Alta Murgia National Park, is the charming manor of Frederick II. Castel del Monte , a masterpiece of medieval architecture declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO , is full of symbols and mystery. Are you ready to discover them all?

What is Castel del Monte and where is it?

puglia castel

Castel del Monte is one of the symbols of Puglia, a medieval fortress built in the 13th century on the western Murge plateau at the gates of the beautiful city of Andria, along the Adriatic coast in southern Italy.

Built by Frederick II on a hill 540 meters above sea level, the fortress of Castel del Monte di Andria is considered a brilliant example of medieval architecture, capable of reflecting the humanistic culture and extensive education of its founders, the Holy Roman Emperors and Kings of Sicily between 1220 and 1250.

History and information about Castel del Monte

Fredhistory castel de monteerick II of Swabia is one of the most interesting figures in medieval history, surrounded by an aura of mystery and protagonist of many legends. Frederick II was a man passionate about mathematics, poetry, philosophy and astronomy and was gifted with a cosmopolitan spirit that led him, first as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and then King of Sicily, to welcome Greeks, Arabs, Italians and Jews.

During his reign Frederick II of Swabia had many castles built throughout southern Italy, but it is at Castel del Monte some of the key aspects of the ruler’s figure and passion can be found.

Castel del Monte was built starting in 1240 according to extreme geometrical and mathematical precision, incorporating elements of different styles, from the Roman lion-cut at the entrance to the Gothic framing of the tower, without forgetting the classical art of interior decoration and the Islamic refinement of the mosaics. Not even their location is random, but studied in such a way as to create certain light and shadow effects at certain times of the year.

Why Castel del Monte has become a UNESCO site

The Castel del Monte fortress, closely associated with Frederick II of Swabia, is an example of medieval architecture that reflects the humanistic ideas of the Emperor, successfully blending classical architectural elements in harmony with the typical decoration of Arabic architecture.

The building’s formal perfection led UNESCO to consider it a World Heritage Site in 1996, and to recognize Frederick II as one of the pioneers of the modern humanist.

What to see in Castel del Monte

The formal perfection of Castel del Monte is already visible from afar, when from Andria you enter the Alta Murgia National Park and begin to approach the hill on which it stands. The first thing you’ll notice is the absence of one of the typical elements of medieval architecture, the perimeter moat, and the distinctive octagonal plan of Castel del Monte, the first taste of the symbology that characterizes this fortress.

The octagonal plant shape, which gives Castel del Monte the configuration of its graceful stone crown, is present in all the rooms of the castle. 8 rooms on the ground floor, 8 rooms on the first floor. There are 8 towers surrounding the building, all on an octagonal plan and arranged at the eight corners of the plan.

This obsessive repetition of the number 8 has made the fortress of Castel del Monte an esoteric haven that has fascinated the best scholars for centuries. But the mysteries of the fort don’t stop there and are gradually revealed during the visit. The structure is accessed by passing through the entrance portal, a grand Arabic arch with a Greco-Roman tympanum and Gothic mullioned windows.

The light colors of the limestone and white marble façade also characterize the interior which is now stripped of the decorations that adorned it in the past. The light that illuminates the first floor comes from 8 single-lancet windows located on each of the eight sides of the plan. The same number of windows were on the upper floors, with minor differences: 7 of the windows were porticos, while only one, facing Andria, was divided into three openings.

The two floors of the fort are connected internally by a spiral staircase located in the 3 towers that surround the building. If you have ever visited any of the other buildings built in this period, you will notice another interesting detail: the spiral staircases, each consisting of 44 steps, are arranged counterclockwise, against the rules of defensive construction of the time because it would have forced soldiers who called upon to defend the castle to wield weapons with the left hand.

This detail is one of many that prompted scholars to exclude the hypothesis that Castel del Monte was once used as a defensive structure. The walls and moats were gone, the gaps were too narrow and the whole building was not in a strategic position.

What was Castel del Monte used for then? Many hypotheses and few certainties: a temple , a secluded place to immerse oneself in learning, a place to relax modeled on an Arab hammam or an astronomical observatory .

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