Postcards from Italy
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Puglia’s Castel del Monte

If, while in Puglia, you can pull yourself away from this southern region’s whitewashed villages, turquoise sea, and heaping plates of orecchiette a cime di rape, consider a visit to Castel del Monte.

You may have an unsettling sense of déjà vu when you first lay eyes on this stunningly symmetrical 13th century citadel topping a hill near the town of Andria; if its octagonal shape adorned with eight matching octagonal towers at each corner seems slightly familiar, dig into your pocket and pull out your change. This fortress is pictured on Italy’s one cent coin.

DSC05108_Snapseed(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Frederick II—aka King of Sicily, King of Jerusalem, King of the Romans, King of Italy, Holy Roman Emperor, and Stupor Mundi—left a swath of spectacular architecture across southern Italy during his reign in the 1200s. Among his various castles, palaces, and cathedrals, Castel del Monte remains unique for its shape and size.

The perfect geometry of Puglia’s Castel del Monte medieval fortress is testimony to Frederick II’s passion for art and science. Click to tweet

The external geometrical uniformity (testimony to this great Humanist ruler’s passion for both art and science) continues inside the structure, with a perfectly octagonal inner courtyard, eight vaulted rooms on both floors, and perfectly symmetrical windows.

DSC05126_Snapseed
(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Scholars are divided as to the castle’s use; some conjecture that is was simply a hunting lodge, since it lacks a moat and drawbridge and is elegantly fitted out with sculpted columns, capitals and windows (additionally, the outside walls were originally covered with marble, all of which was pilfered over the following centuries). However, archaeological digs suggest that a curtain wall, a fortification that would suggest a defensive use, once encircled the fortress.

Whether for work or play, the Castel del Monte is a (Puglian) sight to behold.


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