Castel del Monte
A symbol of the seamless blending of cultural inputs from northern Europe, the Muslim world and classical antiquity, Castel del Monte, a unique masterpiece of medieval architecture, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.
The Castle, which dates from the 13C (the first document available to us for dating carries the year 1240), was built on the orders of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Swabia.
Although today its location may appear remote, when built it stood only just off the main route between two important settlements, Andria and Garagnone (near Gravina). This position made the Castle an essential part of the communications network created by Frederick II.
The debate over its intended use has never been resolved: the term “castrum” apparently refers to a defensive function, but the presence of various “ancillary” structures and the sophistication of the stonework and carvings give the impression more of a royal residence, or purposes of entertainment and display.
Constructed directly on the bedrock, the Castle is famous for its octagonal shape. Eight towers, in the local limestone, stand one in each of its corners.
Like the entire building, the courtyard (also octagonal) features distinctive colour contrasts achieved through the use of coral-coloured “breccia corallina”, limestone and various types of marble. At one time, it also contained fine sculptures and carvings; the only fragments to survive are a carved slab showing a procession of knights and a part of a human figure.
The sixteen trapezoidal rooms, eight on each floor, have cross-vaulted ceilings with fascinating keystones decorated with human figures, animals and plants.
Some towers contain cisterns used to collect rainwater, which also drained into a cistern underneath the central courtyard. Others contain the bathrooms, equipped with latrines and sinks.
Although the majority of the carvings have been lost, what survives is an important pointer to the nature of the original decorations. Between the late 18C and early 19C, local writers and historians describe rich decoration including mosaics, majolica tiles, pâte de verre and wall paintings.
Today, we can still see two corbels carved in the form of human figures in the Falconer’s Tower, the telamones supporting the umbrella vault of one of the staircase towers and a fragment of floor mosaic in the 8th room on the ground floor.
Two important carved fragments, of a head and a headless bust, are temporarily conserved in the Pinacoteca Provinciale in Bari.
Majestic main gateway
The majestic main gateway of the Castle, with the vibrant colours typical of "breccia corallina" stone.
The umbrella vault of the upper floor of the 7th tower, supported by six telamones
Bearded head on the keystone of the vaulted ceiling of the "throne room" on the Castle's upper floor.
località Castel del Monte
Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities