Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Tower of Hunger, Castel d'Ario


Castel d’Ario near Mantua/Mantova is a place I wanted to visit, more for the history rather than any photo opportunities. I tacked it onto the visit to the Po at Revere last week.


This castle has a tremendous history attached to it. A face of early Renaissance Italy that does not rise to the surface often.


Castel d'Ario

Castel,d'Aario
The medieval castle of Castel d'Ario presents itself today as an imposing city wall, about 300 meters long, interspersed by three perimeter towers and a castle gate tower. Today it is mostly a ruin with just one building intact which serves as the town’s library


Castel d'Ario

Castel'Ario
A fifth tower, more massive and elevated, is located inside, inserted in a corner of the enclosure. It is the oldest part of the castle. It is known as the "Torre della Fame" or the “Tower of Hunger”.


Castel d'Ario

Castel d'Ario
During works in the nineteenth century in the cellars of the castle keep, seven skeletons were discovered, one still in chains. Here is the story of how they got there.


Tower, Castel d'Ario

The Dungeons, Castel d'Ario

Castel d'Ario
Francesco I Pico the ruler of Modena after a defeat in battle with an army from Bologna took revenge on the citizens of Modena who he believed had betrayed him. The citizens of the city called in the Rinaldo dei Bonacolsi Duke of Mantova to liberate the city. After a short siege Pico was sent into exile, but five years later in 1321 he returned to the area.


Bonacolsi soon captured him and his two sons who were led naked tied to the back of a mule through a gathering the plebe, who beat them as they passed. Worse was to come.


They were then conducted to the castle of castle D’ario, where they were thrown into the dungeons without food or water and left to die a horrible death.


Bonacolosi in turn was dethroned in 1328 by a coup d’├ętat by one of the wealthy families of the city. The Gonzaga’s with the help of troops from Verona took charge of the city after a short bloody battle.

The Duke died of injuries sustained in the battle. Two of Bonacolosi’s sons and two cousins were captured and sent to the dungeons of Caste d’Ario where they too were imprisoned and left to die without food and water. 


Rinaldo dei Bronacolosi was mummified and put on display in the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua.


This castle served as a prison for the Gonzaga’s and other notables were imprisoned here.


Castel d'Ario
Imprisonment went better for Taddea Cardinalina, known as the wife of Cardinalino, or the son of Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga. Her husband found her in bed with her brother Enea Forlani. She was
imprisoned in the castle, together with her daughter but not in the infamous tower.
After two years she was released.
Castel d'Ario


Castel d'Ario

The Castle is one of the few that was not demolished when the area was ruled by the Austrians.



  

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The River Po at Revere and Ostiglia



A few days ago, I had a chance to explore a couple of towns on the River Po that I had not seen before.

The sleepy little towns of Revere and Ostiglia face each other across the river. Both are in the Province of Mantua.
Revere MN
When I arrived at Revere a thick Po Valley fog was just starting to clear. It was quite spectacular as the huge power station over on the other side of the river slowly came into view.

Revere MN

Revere MN

Revere MN

Revere MN

Revere MN

The riverside here is one of the more picturesque stretches of the River Po, with the levee right next to the river for a long stretch.

Revere MN

Revere MN
Revere MN

Revere MN

I had a wander around the town. A single tower is all that remains of the castle. The large palace was built by a member of the Gonzaga family who dominated a large area around Mantua.

Revere MN

Revere MN

Palazzo Ducale, Revere MN

Palazzo Ducale, Revere, MN

Revere MN

Revere MN
It was now time to cross the river over to Ostiglia. The town is dominated by the chimneys of the huge power station. 
Ostiglia MN

Ostiglia MN

Ostiglia MNa

Ostiglia Mn
I took a walk along the river bank and I was able to go on board one of the landing stages thanks to the invitation to “come aboard” by one of the locals. After a hazardous decent the river took on a whole new perspective from this viewpoint.

Ostiglia MN

Ostiglia MN
Like many little towns along the river, the town seemed almost deserted. There are no real monuments of note here apart from the Palace which is now the commune. 

Ostiglia MN

Ostiglia MN

Ostiglia MN

Ostiglia MN

It was now onto Castel d’Ario near Mantua to visit the castle. But this place deserves a post of its own.






Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Messages from the past in Nonatola


Nonantola is one of the many anonymous and seemingly uninteresting little towns that fill the Pianora Padana. I have passed through it many times without stopping on my way to work appointments. I was told some time ago that it had an abbey that was well worth visiting. The Modena earthquake meant I had to put my visit off for quite a long time.  
Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Abbazia di Nonantola,MO
The Abbey of Nonatola has recently reopened after a long restoration made necessary by the 2012 earthquake. It was once one of Italy’s most important monasteries. It features prominently in the Lombard domination of the area, with a strong connection to Matilde of Canossa.
Entrance, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Entrance, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Entrance, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO
It was founded in 752, but the incredibly sober and simple Romanic church we see today dates from 1013. The impact of the architecture on entering the building is quite something. The building was returned to its original state in the nineteenth century, when the Baroque additions were stripped out. In the crypt, you can see the bones of Saint Anselmo, the founder of the abbey, preserved as a relic.
Abbazia di Nonatola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola,MO
The Presbytery is on a higher level than the rest of the church. This is typical of basilicas of the Romanic period. At the top of the stairs you turn a see the main part of the church below you.
Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola, MO
On entering the crypt, one of the largest in Europe, one is confronted by a forest of columns. It is very suggestive. The crypt was buried in the fifteenth century due to infiltration of ground water. It was restored in the last century and many of the columns are replacements. Some of the original capitals survive.
Cripta, Abbazia di Nanontala, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Relic of St. Anselmo, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO
In the Nave an intricately carved marble Roman fountain has been repurposed as a font. It is one of the few decorations in this church.
Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola, MO
The big surprise of the visit was the contents of the small museum next to the church. One section of the museum has some parchment documents on display which date from between the ninth and twelfth century. They are remarkably well preserved considering their age. There is a lovely colourful Evangeliary on display that dates from the eleventh century. It is incredible to think that these documents are more than a thousand years old in some cases.
Parchment, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Parchment signed by Matilda di canossa, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Parchment, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Parchment, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Evangeliary, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Byzantine funeral shroud, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO 

Bysantine funeral shroud, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Bysantine funeral shroud, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola, mO

Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola, MO


Nonantola is just another example of the hidden suprises to be found in out of the way places here in Italy.
Nonantola,MO

Nonantola, MO