Castello di Copertino
The Castello di Copertino, unusual in both its monumental size and its design, is an important example of Apulia’s Renaissance military architecture.
The complex’s original core is its keep, which can be traced back to the military reorganisation undertaken by Charles of Anjou, who made the town of Copertino a county capital in 1266.
In the 1530s, Marchese Alfonso Granai Castriota, one of Charles V’s generals and feudal overlord of Copertino and its county, commissioned Apulian architect Evangelista Menga to modernise the castle. Menga incorporated the existing buildings in a quadrangular complex crowned with four massive corner bastions and surrounded by a wide moat.
In 1557 the fiefdom was purchased by the Genoese Squarciafico family, and it subsequently passed to the Pinelli and Pignatelli families and, in the 19C, the Granito di Belmonte.
The Castle was declared a National Monument in 1885 and it was acquired by the State in 1956.
The trapezoidal 16C building, crowned by four lanceolated corner bastions and surrounded by a wide moat, incorporates older features, dominated by the massive Angevin keep.
The main entrance is a splendid Renaissance gateway, decorated with rosettes, regalia, bas-reliefs and medallions which strike an unmistakable note of wealth and prestige.
The internal courtyard is surrounded by buildings from different eras, including the small chapel dedicated to St Mark with the tombs of the Squarciafico family, who held the Castle from 1557 and also commissioned the cycle of frescoes by local painter Gianserio Strafella which decorate the interior.
The parade ground contains a well and an arcade (built at a later date and carrying the crest of the Pinelli-Pignatelli family), the stables and the medieval galleries.
An outdoor staircase leads to the upper floor, which contains the 15C-16C apartments of the “old palace”, once the residence of the barons. Halfway up the flight of stairs is the Magdalene Chapel, with the remains of a cycle of frescoes which can be dated to the first half of the 15C.
A tour of the Castle reveals the stages of its evolution, which reflect the progress in military techniques and the history of the local area from the medieval era to modern times, interwoven with that of the different families which succeeded each other as overlords of Copertino.
The cycles of frescoes in the two chapels are worthy of interest: late Gothic in the case of the Magdalene Chapel and Renaissance, with figures of saints and scenes from the Old and New Testaments, in the Chapel of St Mark.
The Castle also contains important archaeological finds seized by the Heritage Corps of the Carabinieri Police Force, and a small collection of Russian and Albanian icons.
In view of the size and layout of the rooms, the interior of the Castle is used to house temporary exhibitions, cultural events and congresses.
Monumental main gateway of the Castle
The magnificent gateway in Catalan-Albanian style decorated with alcoves, niches, medallions and military trophies commemorating the victories of Alfonso Castriota Scanderberg over the French.
Heraldic crest on the keep
The crest, on the eastern face of the keep, shows the coats of arms of the houses of Anjou-Albania and d’Enghien-Brienne.
Fresco in the Magdalene Chapel
Detail of the 15C cycle of paintings showing the Deposition of St Mary Magdalene.
St. Mark Chapel
The brightly coloured frescos were painted by local artist Gianserio Strafella in 1562; the chapel contains the tombs of Uberto and Stefano Squarciafico, by Lupo Antonio Russo, from Gallipoli
Monochrome Daunian jug with geometrical decoration
The jug, a product of the local Daunian culture (second half of 6C BCE) with the characteristic geometrical decoration marked out in brown, is one of the items recovered by the Carabinieri Police Heritage Task Force.
- Fragments of epistylium from a templon
These three icon fragments from the Albanian school can be traced to the circle of Onufri (16C) and portray four Apostles and and the Evangelists Luke and Matthew in tempera
Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities