The Norman Castle of Monteserico
This is one side of castle of Monteserico
View of the Castle of Monteserico, Genzano
The castle of Monteserico
Welcome to our article (26), ‘The Norman castle of Monteserico’
We have called this article, The Norman castle of Monteserico, since The Normans first they fought around this castle to conquer it and then used it to run their conquest in Southern Italy around 1040 AD; we could have called it, ‘the castle of Federico II’, since he used this castle as sit for the “magister massarium Apuliae” while he was master of Southern Italy around 1220-1250; today we call it the castle of Monteserico, because that is how this zone of southern Italy is called.
So, let us talk about the castle of Monteserico, in Genzano di Lucania; it may seem strange, but the town of Genzano di Lucania has two castles, one is in the town itself, which has been modified and today is used as the Town Hall (Municipio). But today we are going to talk about Monteserico castle in the country; we need to say that the name of “Monteserico” in Genzano, not only refer to this castle but it also refer to the county itself; in fact this name would cover about three quarter of Genzano territory.
Monteserico castle is a very old castle that a long time ago had a village of its own; some people believe that the Normans built it, but most people don’t agree with it. Anyhow, the castle was there, and the Normans may have modified it and used this castle, while they were ruling over their conquest in Southern Italy.
Now if we connect what historically is known today, we know that this castle of Monteserico was there before the modern Genzano came into existence; we say the modern Genzano because there is some evidence that Genzano existed in the Roman times, as it is mentioned in the archive of Potenza that two martyrs Donato and Secondo were executed in Genzano around 258 AD; see, Genzano di Lucania history, therefore, the town of Genzano existed even then.
Anyhow, let us talk about Monteserico castle, this castle was completely independent from the town of Genzano di Lucania, in fact the modern town of Genzano came into existence well after the Norman invasion of Southern Italy. We can say this because even though today Monteserico Castle is situated in the territory of Genzano, the founder of the existing Genzano came from this castle. History tells us that this was the castle of queen Aquilina Sancia, who lived there before Genzano town was rebuilt and Aquilina Sancia is said to be the founder of Genzano.
Anyhow, nobody knows exactly who started to build this castle of Monteserico, and it has many stories about its origin, what we know today is that this was one of the main castles that the Normans used to rule over Southern Italy in the beginning of the second millennium, and that in this part of southern Italy there have been many wars and this castle has had many owners, another historically well-known owner was “Frederick II” about 1194-1250, check the links below.
Some other owner of the castle we will try to mention in our text here under. Anyhow today it happens that this castle has been restored to safe keep the heritage of this part of Southern Italy; but it is a very quiet country place, it seems almost forgotten except for the people that work around in the fields that produce some of the best durum wheat that is used to make pasta and other wheat products.
Where Genzano di Lucania is and this castle
Chapel of the Madonna, Maria Santissima delle Grazie
Explaining these photos above and below.
Here above is the chapel of the Madonna of Monteserico, but the original Monteserico Madonna picture has been stolen, and somebody replaced it with a cheap picture; so, the town of Genzano ordained the painter Pedota, to paint a portrait of the Madonna, Maria SS Delle Grazie, and in 1953 they had a feast and relaced the cheap picture with this new painted image. So, today this chapel of Monteserico has this new picture of, Maria SS delle Grazie, patron Saint of Genzano. It is said, that the inhabitant of Genzano need to open, visit, or make a feast at least once a year, otherwise they lose possession of Monteserico chapel, and the possession will pass to the family De Chio of Spinazzola, as they were the last owners or tenants of the place.
Below is a photo of the castle taken from a faraway field, you see in this part of the country there are only fields that are used to grow wheat or other produce and not much else for miles. This photo reminds me about the thousands of time that I have seen this castle from our family farm, when I was young.
Then there is this photo of this poster about the inauguration of Monteserico Castle after the restoration, where the names of people that have contributed and other things are shown.
Genzano other castle called Monteserico
Inauguration details of Monteserico castle
The Norman in Southern Italy
About the castle of Monteserico
Monteserico castle seems to be built different from other castles. It is shaped rectangular or almost square, one can say that it is more a military fortress than a real castle; it is built in stones of every shape and size, and today it would be hard to find builders or tradesmen that are able to build something like that, even though there are some tradesmen as we can see from the entry pathway that looks almost new, and it is almost identical to the castle masonry; however we know that it has been added later, because this castle had a trench around it a long time ago, for reasons of defence, but this added entry pathway makes it easy to enter the castle, so, it is an addition and it looks good. Anyhow, these two photos one above and one below are there to show you how the castle is like today.
Anyhow, let us look at some history of this castle of Monteserico, but before we do that, we need to point out that the castle of Monteserico looks exactly like one of the Norman castles in Normandy France; let me explain, one day I ask this French army captain about the castle in Normandy that looks like Monteserico castle, and he said to me, that the Normans have built only two castles, one in France and one in Southern Italy, see our hub, Genzano the Lucania history; and some other evidence that we are going to quote from.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Norman conquest of southern Italy spanned most of the 11th and 12th centuries, involving many battles and many independent players conquering territories of their own. Only later were these territories in southern Italy united as the Kingdom of Sicily, which included not only the island of Sicily, but also the entire southern third of the Italian Peninsula (save Benevento, which they did briefly hold on two occasions) as well as the archipelago of Malta and parts of North Africa.
Opportunistic bands of Normans successfully established a foothold in Southern Italy (the Mezzogiorno). Probably the result of returning pilgrims' stories, the Normans entered the Mezzogiorno as warriors in 1017 at the latest. In 999, according to Amatus of Montecassino, pilgrims returning from Jerusalem called in at the port of Salerno when a Saracen attack occurred. The Normans fought so valiantly that Prince Guaimar III begged them to stay, but they refused and instead offered to tell others back home of the prince's request. William of Apulia tells that, in 1016, pilgrims to the shrine of the Archangel Michael at Monte Gargano were met by Melus of Bari, a Lombard freedom-fighter, who persuaded them to return with more warriors to help throw off the Byzantine rule, which they did.
(End of quote)
In some written history of Genzano and this castle of Monteserico, there is this famous Norman leader (Roberto il Guiscardo) Robert Guiscard that is said to own the castle of Monteserico as also some battles that happened around this castle, here is a link about Robert Guiscard.
From what we have been able to learn, it is that the Normans have used this castle extensively and perhaps modified it or partly built it, and since Robert Guiscard (Duke of Apulia) was there, we know that this castle has been the Norman castle of Southern Italy from where the Norman ruled over their conquest.
The castle of Monteserico after restoration
Some historic events in brief
Now we want to talk about the history of the castle of Monteserico. The history during the first millennium of this castle is not known much, but it is believed that there were some caves that the shepherds and other inhabitant of this region used for themselves, before the castle was built. Some people say that this part of Southern Italy has seen many battles; they even suggest that Spartacus with his other slave friend have been here, while they were in Southern Italy, as history tells us when the slaves rebelled and formed their own army under their leader Spartacus, they went to live near the Ionian Sea, now Monteserico is part of the territories that runs into the Ionian Sea through the river Bradano and its tributaries, there is another story why Spartacus could have come this way; you see in Genzano town even today there is this chasm called the Greek chasm, the only thing this can mean is that there was a Greek colony living in this chasm; and Spartacus being Greek for sure was attracted from this Greek community, so, even Spartacus could have come in Monteserico territory.
Now let us go back to talk about Monteserico castle; as we know everything can starts small and then starts growing, so, some people say that at the beginning, this could have been a Roman villa used for holiday, then turned as a monastery of the Greek orthodox religion. Then as the time went by and many wars and other things happened around this place it kept growing until we find that the Normans at the beginning of the second millennium have this castle, and they rule over most of southern Italy from this castle of Monteserico.
After that the castle of Monteserico changed many owners, and some of which we are going to mention as soon as we get around; one of the most known of these people from the inhabitant of Genzano is Aquilina Sancia queen of Monteserico. The reason for this is that while this Aquilina Sancia was there she built a monastery of the Clarisse in Genzano and this monastery attracted people that lived around to move and live around this monastery, for this reason Genzano town is said that Aquilina Sancia is the founder of the existing Genzano, today we know that this is not correct, since there is historic evidence that the town of Genzano has existed since the Roman times.
This has got to be the inauguration feast inside the Castle
People attending the inaguration
There is a fair amount of people at this inauguration, some are inside the castle and some are outside looking at the old building and views of the country around it.
Various castle photos
More historic events
Now we are going to look at some historic event that can help establish the history of this castle, but there isn’t real written history about this Monteserico castle, so, we are going to rely on search done about sixty years ago from the writer Ettore Lorito, who has done some search and written a book about Genzano including the castle of Monteserico:
The writer Ettore Lorito suggests that the beginning of the castle is ancient, but nobody knows when it was started: anyhow, we want to tell you what he has written in this very shortened translated version; we are doing this since the original is written in Italian. Now if there are people that want to read the original Italian version they should go to this link; http://genzanoit.blogspot.com/, to navigate to this link, first of all click on the link above, once you have reached the blog, you need to navigate down the left side column until you reach Home pages, in Home pages find the link, Genzano in Italiano, (it 1) and click on it, go down the page and then click on the link, Scrittori e poeti, a few names of writers come up, click on Ettore Lorito, some links for two books come up, click on GENZANO DI BASILICATA Cronografia; within this book there is also the story of the castle of Monteserico.
Now that I have explained how to find the Italian original version, let me tell this version in English.
It is thought that very early at the place where the castle is today, there were caves below it that the local people used to live in; so, that was already a start for people to continue to live there. So, very likely when the Romans conquered southern Italy, they might have built a villa, this was only natural as this gave them the control of the countryside, this is one of the possible ways how this castle was started. It is also believed that Spartacus and his Roman slave’s friends have been in this country and fought with the Romans, and also that even the Roman council Marcello and Hannibal have fought on this territory, but there is no mention of the castle in those times.
Some people say that the castle was built before 900 AD. because they have found some written story; one of this is the following.
The writer Deblaisiis in his Norman Conquest said that in the year 929 AD Guaimaro and Ladolfo to repay the Norman for the help they had given at Monte Serico and Monte Peloso gave them some castles including one in Spinazzola; so, the castle of Monteserico was already there, perhaps it had been there as a villa at the beginning and then modified into a castle after the fall of the Roman empire, when most localities had to look after themselves, since there was not a Roman army to guard the country. Anyhow, because in 929 the castle was already there, it was not built by the Norman as some people believe.
Now to make this story shorter, let us go to when the Norman had got possession of the castle of Monteserico after many battles, you see even today after a thousand years there is a hill called (Serra della battaglia) this laterally means “the hill of the battle” But even though the Norman and their allied won that battle on this hill, they were not able to take the castle this time, because the castle was well defended; but they got there some years later.
Anyhow, we know that Robert Guiscard, a Norman by birth became duke in southern Italy owned this castle; then other people, but for me to name them is hard to do, unless I find an historic list, but we can say that through marriages, exchanges and other things the castle of Monteserico was ruled from this Spanish princess Aquilina Sancia around 1300 AD.. In those times there was also a village near the castle, but it slowly disappeared around 1400 and 1430 AD.
Below the castle of Monteserico
Monteserico fields with castle in background
Fields of Momneserico
This country has large fields. and by the way this is where the vegetable called rocket comes from, as it is found growing in the wild if you know where to look for it.
Imagining the history of Monteserico
Let us imagine how Monteserico castle was built, since nobody knows who, when or the reason it was built, but from what we have found, we can say a few things, so, let us say how we see this castle history.
In the beginning there were people of this region living in the caves where today stands the castle, they could have been local shepherd or other people; these people could have come from Greece or somewhere else, they came up the valley of the river Bradano and settled here in Monteserico and in the town of Genzano, since in Genzano even today there is this chasm called the Greek chasm.
Anyhow, the history during the first millennium is not known. Some people say that this part of Southern Italy has seen many battles; they even suggest that Spartacus with his other slave friend have been here, while they were in Southern Italy, as history tells us when the slaves rebelled and formed their own army under their leader Spartacus, they went to live near the Ionian Sea, now Monteserico is part of the territories that runs into the Ionian Sea through the river Bradano and its tributaries; then in Genzano there is the Greek chasm, the only thing this can mean is that there was a Greek colony living in this chasm; and Spartacus being Greek for sure was attracted to this Greek community, so, even Spartacus must have come to Genzano and Monteserico territory.
Let us talk about the Roman Era with their conquest of southern Italy, followed by their conquest of the known world. So, the Romans ruled over this part of Italy for a very long time; during that time some of the Roman leader may have started a holiday villa or a building to live in and rule over the countryside, that is what the Roman did best, they would build something wherever they went, so that they would run that part of their conquest easily, at the same time bring civilization to the people in that region. So, we believe that since the Roman times there has been a building there that the Roman used; after that, it might have grown bigger and modified many times.
When the Western Roman Empire collapsed around in 475-76 AD, when the German Odovacer deposited Romulus Augustulus, and in affect became king of Rome.
After the fall of the Roman Empire there wasn’t any real peace in Italy, so, people had to try to protect themselves the best way they could, this in affect made people build castles, so, this villa or whatever was built in Monteserico started to take the form of a castle.
The first time that a castle or fort is mentioned is in the 800 AD. You see there were many wars so Monteserico castle and other castles in this part of the region became fortified forming a line of defence against the enemy; please note that this is before the Norman came to southern Italy, so, when Robert Guiscard came to this part of Italy the castle was already there, as we can see from some important battles that happened in those times.
Anyhow, the castle of Monteserico has changed many owners, and some of which we are going to mention here; one of the best-known owner for the inhabitant of Genzano is Aquilina Sancia queen of Monteserico. The reason for this is that while Aquilina Sancia was there she built a monastery of the Clarisse in Genzano and this monastery attracted people that lived around this monastery, for this reason Genzano town is said that Aquilina Sancia is the founder of the existing Genzano. But there is historic evidence that the town of Genzano has existed since the Roman times.
Italian actress Lydia Borelli sometime lived in Monteserico castle
More known Monteserico history
Anyhow, now let us mention the owner that we know that have owned the castle of Monteserico, So, let us start with famous owners like Robert Guiscard duke of southern Italy in 1047 of Apulia and Calabria and later on the Two Sicilies etc. Born 1016 died 1085
Another famous owner is Fredrick II, 1194-1250, after Frederick II, it is not easy to follow the chain of events, but we know that castles and other holdings always changed hand. It is said in history that there was a Roberto D’Angio who had married a Sancia he donated the castle to a family member del Bosco who saw husband of Aquilina Sancia, and when he died Aquilina Sancia became owner of Monteserico.
From Aquilina Sancia it was inherited from her daughter Giacoma Rachele who married Roberto San Severino the count of Carignano and Terlizzi, and then it was passed to the family Dentice delle Stelle under the queen Giovanna and to the Ruffo.
During this time Monteserico had a village but around 1400-1430 it slowly vanished, there was not an explanation why this happened, but it happened.
After Aquilina Sancia there were the Sanseverino who had the castle. After that in 1603 was a Genoese Grimaldi, in 1613 was the Doria, at the end of 1700 was some descendents of the Sancia family and after that was abandoned.
It was bought from the Baron Dell’Agli-Certi the 30-01-1857, and then it was sold to the Cafieri the 30-03-1875 but by then it was too run down to live in.
After world war 1 the tenant Gardini bought a portion of the land from the Cafieri and the castel of Monteserico, it was used for holiday or resting place from this actress: Lyda Borelli (22 March 1884 – 2 June 1959) was an Italian actress ofcinema and theatre. She was born in Genoa, and died in Rome. Her career in theatre started when she was a child, acting on stage with Paola Pezzaglia in the French drama I due derelitti.
There might be other things to add but I don’t know what else to say at the moment, except that this military castle of Monteserico is a small fortress that has got many unknown stories, whether we will be able to tell these stories one day we do not know.
Anyhow, we hope that we have told you this story of Monteserico for everybody to read, but it has also been especially written for those people that come from Genzano, so that they can remember their native town and our Monteserico castle.
Dear readers, we have written several articles about Genzano di Lucania, and the castle of Monteserico, of course, there are other things that can be said about the past, but today we have to start to look at the future, because there are things happening in southern Italy that worries me. Because looking at the past, we can forecast what could happen around these places in the future. So, later after writing about my life in Australia, I will return to talk about Italy modern history.
But before we do that, let me show you what I have found on the Internet about famous castles, so, here is Leeds Castle
One of the top castles in the world, Leeds Castle in England
This is a photo of Leeds Castle
This castle above is one of the best castle in the world and the photo are just beautiful to see, I have borrowed this photo from Greensleeves Hubs, in the hope of interesting my readers to read about castles, I hope also that Greensleeves does not mind me using his photo, after all this link might add a few more readers to his great hub.
In order to get a larger amount of people interested in castles and their history, we have borrowed this photo, and also the link that links to this great hub, so anyone that likes to read this hub can view it just by clicking on the link.
You see, we have talked about our small castle of Monteserico, So, to keep the public interested in castles and castles history, we have borrowed the link of, Leeds Castel, and the readers can read both hubs. But be warned the castle of Monteserico is only a small castle compared to Leeds Castle, but it has got its own history, which we have written the best way we could.
See you soon.
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