Architecture of stones and light

Architecture of stones and light

Monday 04 April 2022

On top of a 540 m high hill, visible from most of the Land of Bari, it has been called the crown of the Apulian castles. Here you can admire all the singularity of Swabian architecture in which different styles meet: the classicism of the portal in imitation of a Roman triumphal arch, the Cistercian Gothic of the structure and decorative elements, the influence of Romanesque and Arab architecture. All admirably fused into an unrepeatable unicum.

The octagonal plan with corner towers of the same shape is found only very far in time and space. The richness of the interiors makes it only probable that it was destined to be an imperial residence: a splendid residence that remained empty due to the death of its august founder Frederick II. The only Federician document that speaks of it dates back to 1240, when it was not yet completed. We do not know if it was before his death in 1250. With the Angevins it was a prison, but also the seat of splendid weddings of the royal family. Given as a fiefdom, it was abandoned for centuries, becoming a refuge for brigands and a "quarry" for precious marbles. Its rediscovery in the 1900s. Castel del Monte is the "petrified representation" of imperial power and its culture: a hunting lodge or a place of delights does not matter. 

Probably surrounded by a circle of walls that made it more defensible, it was splendidly merged with the surrounding landscape: an expanse of woods as far as the eye can see, with the sea as a backdrop to the north. The plan, the internal courtyard, the corner towers follow the very original octagonal module. Each side corresponds to a hall on each floor, with a trapezoidal plan, overlooking the splendid internal courtyard. The towers contain the stairs, the toilets and at the top the rainwater tanks, collected through an ingenious and perfect system. 

The external face is in Trani stone except in the portal and in the external decorative elements which are in pink coral breccia. The same stone covered the rooms on the first floor, embellished with mosaics that have unfortunately disappeared. Its originality, its turreted shape, the mystery that surrounds its origins and destination, have a "magical" touch that pushes us to deepen our knowledge beyond traditional schemes. In fact, there are those who have seen esoteric and magical meanings there. We like to think of it as one of the peaks of the human lighthouse, as a visual synthesis of an imperial power that wanted to become eternal and wanted to recreate the glories of the Roman Empire by building an architecture of stone and light.

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