Castel del Monte stands lonely on a hill in the Apulian Murgia. 540 metres above sea level; the most famous monument dating from the times of Swabian Emperor Frederick II was included in the world heritage protected by the Unesco.
Built in the first half of the 13th century, the criteria applied to its layout and design perfectly synthesize the Emperor’s artistic heritage, which embraced various styles and cultures. The structure recalls the classical world and yet seems to anticipate Humanism, with Romanesque and Gothic influences; but it seems above all ispired by Arab and Cistercian cultures, which the Emperor held in high esteem.
The castle was built following an unusual octagonal layout, with eight equally octagonal towers marking the vertices of the polygon. There is no moat, nor defence works for any other kind. In fact, the Castle was not built for any defensive purpos, but rather as the Emperor’s monument to himself and his temporal power.
So, it rises like a majestic lady cathedral, a symbol of his worldly aspirations.
Castel del Monte waves its own peculiar magic spell, with each architectural element following precise algebraic and mathematic laws. It seems almost as if it had been designed as a gigantic medieval space observatory.
The Castle was thoroughly restored and is now open to visitors. The imposing portal of breccia corallina, recalling the triumphal arches of Roman times, leads into a first room of a trapezoidal shape surmunted by a cross vault, like all the other rooms of the Castle.
The next room opens onto an octagonal courtyardwith three finely decorated doorways, while a steep winding staircase in the tower leads to the upper floor. The ribs of the vaulted ceiling in the tower rest on cornices sculpted with expressive anthropomorphic figures, a rare example of thirteenth-century sculpture.
The upper rooms, all of the same shape and size, display traces of an extremely fine workmanship in the columns of coloured marble, the doorways and window frames, decorated with breccia corallina, the fireplaces and figured key stones.