Monday, May 16, 2011

Castel del Monte

Situated amidst the unspoilt Italian countryside of pine woods and fields stretching as far as the eye can see – the imposing and peculiar Castel del Monte has sat since 1240. Castel del Monte was built by Emperor Frederick II near Bari in Apulia, Italy. Once a symbol of opulence with marble walls and columns; the castle has been stripped by vandals. The Castel del Monte is a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage site and can be viewed on the Amazing South of Italy tour with Celtic Tours.
A unique piece of medieval military architecture, Castel del Monte is a successful blend of Gothic and Islamic architecture and influences. It is considered one of the most imposing structures of its kind in all of Italy, though it has neither a moat nor a drawbridge and was never intended as a defensive fortress.

Emperor Frederick II imbued Castel del Monte with symbolic significance, as reflected in the location, the mathematical and astronomical precision of the layout and the perfectly regular shape.  The use of the octagon shape is unusual in castle design. One theory for the use of the octagon is that it is an intermediate symbol between a square (representing the earth) and a circle (representing the sky). Frederick II may have been inspired to build with the octagon by either the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem or the Palace Chapel of Aachen Cathedral, in Germany.
It was never finished and was used primarily as a hunting lodge by Frederick until his death in 1250. It was later turned into a prison, used as a refuge during a plague, and finally fell into disrepair and stripped of its rich marble walls and columns by vandals.
Castel del Monte is an astounding, if not a bit perplexing, work of medieval architecture best seen in person. Visit Castel del Monte on your Amazing South of Italy tour with Celtic Tours.

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