Castel del Monte: “The Crown of Stone”

January 20, 2015 / Art & Archaeology
Andria, Puglia

Built in 1240 by Swabian Frederick II Hohenstaufen, the impressive Castel del Monte has views stretching in every direction including the Murge and the Adriatic as far as the Gargano.

Geometrically perfect Castel del Monte
Geometrically perfect Castel del Monte
Overlooking the Murge...
The castle's main entrance facing the east.
The castle’s main entrance facing the east.

The last descendant of the Norman dynasty, Frederick was born in 1194 and orphaned at four. He inherited the Empire and Kingdom of Sicily and, at the age of 15, married Catherine of Aragon. Over a 30 year period the charismatic Emperor built/restored a system of 111 castles including 11 between 1241 and 1246 in Puglia and Basilicata alone.

Castel del Monte 9 - View of Adriatic from 2nd flr-Photo V DeMaio
Sweeping views to the Adriatic…

Whether or not the geometrically perfect Castel del Monte, without a moat and embrasures, could function as a military defense remains in question but, with its undisputed strategic location, the imposing crown of stone sent the undeniable message of royal power to his people and enemies alike.

Castel del Monte's interior courtyard
Castel del Monte’s interior courtyard

Frederick was interested in astronomy and there is speculation that the castle, which receives sunlight all day and has a terrace and courtyard with unobstructed views of the heavens, could have been used as an astronomy observatory.

Harmony with nature...
Harmony with nature…

Built from local stone 540 meters above sea level, the massive octagonal crown-shaped footprint, has two floors with 16 trapezoid rooms, eight on each floor. There are eight octagonal towers on the eight corners with winding staircases in three of the towers and cisterns to collect rain water in the other five. Impressed with the Arab way of living, Frederick II (and his court) adopted their customs of cleanliness. Hence, very modern for its time, some of these towers have baths with toilets and washbasins.

Acquired by the Italian state in 1876, the castle endured serious damage from centuries of wind, extreme temperatures, and neglect. Restoration started in 1879 and continued for decades. In 1966, Castel del Monte became an UNESCO World Heritage Site. I can’t help but think that Frederick II would be quite pleased!

Entrance to the World Heritage Site
Entrance to the World Heritage Site

More photos of Castel del Monte

The castle's octagonal towers
The castle’s octagonal towers
Castel del Monte 8 - 117 loopholes for light-Photo V DeMaio
Balcony overlooking the central courtyard.
Massive fireplaces
One of the castle’s massive fireplaces.
Remains of color and glory
Remains of color and glory…

Castel del Monte 2 -Photo V DeMaio

Victoria De Maio

by Victoria De Maio

Victoria is a lover of all things Italian! A travel advisor, blogger, writer, tour leader, and published author, she is passionate about traveling to and writing about Italy.

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9 Responses to “Castel del Monte: “The Crown of Stone””

  1. mary jane

    a fascinating place still to be visited. I can imagine the emperor riding out from here with his falcon on his wrist. Federico was an all round genius and author of “The Art of Falconry”.

    Reply
    • Giuseppe Spano
      Giuseppe Spano

      although the main sport the Castel was used for was entertaining the ladies…

      Reply
  2. Francesco Paolo

    Been there many times. A beautiful, stunning place on top of a hill that can be seen for miles. Big wine area too with the Rivera winery putting out excellent reds (Castel del Monte) and their great Moscato di Trani, both DOC’s. Only downer with the castle is that it is completely empty and void, but still a great building.

    Reply
  3. Victoria, your information, photos and descriptions are always so interesting and enjoyable. Love this piece as well.

    Reply
  4. Great information and beautiful photos Victoria. Thanks for providing a look at a beautiful gem of the South

    Reply
  5. Victoria De Maio

    Grazie to all for your kind comments and for taking the time to read about still another of Italy’s treasures! I love sharing with you. More coming…!

    Reply

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