Castel del Monte

Taken from Rolf Hicker’s photography

Background:

Name of Site: Castel del Monte

Country located in today: Italy

Year added to World Heritage List: 1996

Criteria that the site was nominated for: i. represent a masterpiece of human creative genius. ii. exhibit important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town planning or landscape designs. iii. to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or has disappeared. Definitions for criteria taken from the World Heritage Centre.

Total number of Cultural or Mixed Heritages sites in Italy: 42

Basic Archaeological Site Information:

Site Size: 3.10 ha

Time period of site representation: 13th century Italy, representing medieval military architecture.

Archaeological Summary: Castel del Monte was designed by Frederick II of Hohenstafuen. Frederick was a great ruler who brought control to his kingdom of Sicily and also introduced the culture which became known as the ‘Southern Renaissance’. Frederick II built a number of castles on the land he ruled over- Apuila, Calabria, and Sicily- but Castel del Monte was the strongest of them all. Castel del Monte was finished in 1240 and because it was the largest and had the most influence, it became Frederick’s home to his throne. He spent the last 10 years of his life ruling from there before he died in 1250.

The main layout of the castle is an octagon. At each corner of the octagon is a tower, also in the shape of an octagon. The castle walls are built of limestone. One reason Castel del Monte is of interest is because it lacks the normal architecture of other military buildings which were built at this time: outer bailey, moats, stables, kitchen, storerooms, and a chapel. The castle is also the largest built during its time period, while being very unique in structure compared to all others. The octagon layout of the castle is said to represent Frederick’s philosophy and values of his reign. Castel del Monte is also unique in that it is a blend of three different cultures: classic antiquity, Muslim architecture coming from the east, and Cistercian Gothic of northern Europe.

All of Frederick’s castles had some sort of geometric shape to them, and the main reason for this is thought to be for military purposes. These castles had a strategic and defensive design to them, but at the same time they showed beauty and the rich culture of Italy. Castel del Monte specifically has been questioned many times as to the perfect symmetry of the octagon shape which was picked by Frederick II.

Threats/Status: Castel del Monte is not a threatened site. Talk about preservation and restoration has been done throughout the years and is protected under a law made in 1968.

World Heritage: Castel del Monte

Los Angeles Times Article

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