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Routes > Arte e Storia > Castelli > Introduzione

At the end of the 9th century, settlements in Molise still looked like the ancient world ones: in fact, the rural village was generally spread in small complex (curtes) without any defensive systems. Only towns and some military garrisons in strategic positions were provided of defence equipments. During the 10th century, the castra were more and more preponderant inside the territory as the political power was divided into a plurality of small dominions, each one of which provided for their own properties defence autonomously. This is the fortifications stage, where all the small villages concentrate on hill tops, in order to gather peasant communities in need of protection. Simple wooden or walled fences bounded the villages, constituted of houses, which at the beginning were prevalently made of wood; while stone buildings developed since the 12th century.

Fonte: Castels, towers and fortifications of te Molise

The fortified structures of the Molise are very different one from each other, from the Samnite walls to the baronial palaces in Renaissance style. Samnite fortifications are distinguishable as made by stones drawn close one each other with no lime: just because of this, stones should have had large dimensions, otherwise the wall shouldn’t been standing. On Saraceno Mountain of Pietrabbodante there are exemplars of megalith walls. It is possible to recognize Samnite walls also for the lack of towers and corbels, appeared in the Middle Ages. Anyways, there are not basic differences between mediaeval and Samnite concepts of fortification as they both base on the site choice, which should be as inaccessible as possible, i.e. on a cliff with jutting sides. At the end of 1400, when fire-arms appeared, new defence methods were introduced, but in this period the Molise was part of a Unitarian state, the Spanish vice-reign, as an inner, not border region, so they didn’t need defensive systems. In the 16th century the old castles turned into comfortable noble residences. Actually, there are just a few castles-residence, as Spanish policy provided that nobles should have worked for the Court, avoiding that feudatories were too much autonomous and rebelled again, like happened in “the barons plot”. Among a few cases, there is the castle of Pescolanciano, enriched with Renaissance features, or the castle of Macchiagodena, whose façade towards the village square looks like a noble palace, while on the side towards the valley, it still preserves defensive features. Anyways, the feudal building still keeps its military origins as it is visible from its massive walls.
We haven’t dealt with another architectural category for defence yet, which is the isolated towers. This is not a defensive typology properly: its function consists especially in sighting, in order to control the territory. Obviously, the largest number of towers is due to the changes of castles, like the Carpinone one, or urban counties, like in Vastogirardi and Isernia, in which the towers are mostly placed on the corners (except for some cases, i.e. the tower is in the middle of the fortified suburb wall of Vastogirardi). They are different from each other according to the way they stick to the plan perimeter: the ones put beside the walls (in Pignatelli castle of Monteroduni) and more often the ones coming out from sloping walls (in the castle of Cerro al Volturno).

The castles in the Molise, drawn from “Molise, una regione da scoprire” by Francesco Manfredi-Selvaggi; editor studio Emme, 1999.

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