Castel del Monte is a castle in Puglia, southern
Italy. The castle stands isolated in an elevated position on the low plateau, the Murge,
between Corato and Andria. Its name is derived from that of S Maria del Monte, the church of
the nearby Benedictine monastery.
Castel del Monte Description
Castel del Monte is the only Apulian castle to
preserve its original character; it was built ex novo in a single campaign in the mid-13th
century as part of Emperor Frederick II’s fortifications in southern Italy and Sicily. Unlike
Frederick’s other Apulian castles, but like those in Sicily, Castel del Monte has a rigorously
geometrical plan, and its architectural features are derived from north European and Cistercian
It is not known if the Castle del Monte was finished before Frederick’s
death in 1250. On the fall of the Hohenstaufen, Charles I of Anjou (1266–1285) imprisoned
Manfred’s sons and followers of the Swabian court at Casteldel Monte. From the time of the
Angevin Queen Joanna I (1343–1382) until 1507 it was part of the royal domain. Under Spanish
domination, it became the fief of Consalvo de Córdoba. In 1528 Odet de Foix, Lord of Lautrec,
bombarded the castle, damaging its outer defences, and in the 17th century the building was
uninhabited and already stripped of its furnishings.
Castel del Monte was purchased by the Italian State in 1876 and became a
national monument; it has been restored several times since 1879.
The exterior of the Castel del Monte looks
like a fortress. It has massive walls, corner towers, loopholes and portcullis gates; the
finely jointed masonry is composed of large limestone ashlar blocks. The interior, however,
reveals that it was conceived as a hunting-lodge, with every possible comfort. Some scholars
attribute the original conception to Frederick II himself, since many of the singular aspects
of the building are in accordance with his ideas.
In fact, Castel del Monte fits more naturally into the medieval notion of
the building as a mirror of the Universe, following rigorous geometric schemes and regulated by
precise numerical relationships.
The plan of the Castel del Monte is based on
the octagon, which determines both its external perimeter and that of the courtyard, as well as
the plan of each of the eight corner towers. The castle has a maximum width of 49.6 m, measured
from opposite angles; each side measures 9.8 m between the towers, and the outer wall is 3 m
thick at the base.
The overall design of the main entrance, facing towards Andria, is
Classical, but with Gothic details. The door has a lintel resting on pilasters with foliate
capitals; the pointed arch above springs from lions that project over the abaci of the flanking
columns. The door is further framed by two fluted pilasters supporting a corbelled cornice,
with a form of pediment above .
There was once a stairway in front of this portal, with two symmetrical
flights. A second door, facing the countryside, opened opposite the main one. The six
ground-floor windows are round-headed with double embrasures, cut from blocks of pink breccia.
The eight windows on the upper floor are pointed with twin lights, except for one on the
north-west side, which has three lights; the embrasures are made from various kinds of marble.
A robust string course separates the lower storey from the upper, and the total height of the
building is 24.4 m. There was no moat; the outer defences were provided by a circuit of
The interior arrangement of the Castel del
Monte is the same on both floors: eight trapezoidal rooms, nearly all
intercommunicating, with doors and windows facing the inner court. The rooms are each vaulted
in three sections, with a rib vault over the central square and quasi-barrel vaults over the
lateral, triangular sections. The vault supports consist of half-columns with foliate bases and
capitals in pink breccia on the ground-floor, and groups of three small colonnettes in white
marble with single capitals on the upper floor. The white limestone ribs have rosette
The interior walls were faced with slabs of coral breccia or plastered and
painted in imitation of it; its intense red colour was probably intended to suggest imperial
purple. The ‘antique’ ambience was also evoked by the mosaic pavements on the ground-floor; a
section with polychrome rosettes survives. Three of the interior rooms communicate with the
inner court through doors surmounted by pointed arches.
Each room gives access to the corner towers, five of which, spanned by
octopartite rib vaults on corbels, were designed as service rooms; the other three, circular on
the interior, contained spiral stairs leading to the upper floor. The upper rooms are profusely
decorated with sculpture in coloured materials. The eight walls of the courtyard are
articulated by pointed wall arches rising from pilasters at the angles of the octagon; a
balcony once ran round the walls at the level of the arch apexes.
Castel del Monte Map&Location
Castel del Monte Address: 76123 Andria BT, Italy
Aproximate Geographic Coordinates: 41.085093,16.271245
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