Many castles have survived in Europe, which to modern people seem incredibly beautiful and majestic. Their main purpose was to deter enemies if necessary.
That is why such factors as a good location, a moat, a rampart and other opportunities to repel potential enemies played a strategic role.
However, there is one architectural object that does not fit into the traditional framework.
The majestic is one of the most famous landmarks in the Italian region of Apulia. Moreover, it will not be an exaggeration to say that this is the most mystical castle in the world.
Unlike other mystical places, this amazing castle is not hidden from prying eyes behind the mountains and forests. On the contrary, it is visible from afar. You drive along the freeway and see it, towering on top of the hill. It doesn’t matter that the name of the building is translated as “castle on the mountain”, only those who have never seen real mountains in their life can literally take the name Castel del Monte.
It was built on a castle on the very spot where the Maria del Monte monastery was located until the thirteenth century, hence the first name of the building, which few people remember today – castrum Sancta Maria de Monte.
Today, crowds of people frequently visit Castel del Monte. For this, many thanks to the magical world of cinema and the Italian director Matteo Garrone in particular, because it was in the unusual halls of this monumental structure that he settled the characters of his “Scary Tales” – the king who raised a flea, and the princess whom the eccentric father married to a cannibal. Curiously, until the twentieth century, the castle was in an abandoned state, and shepherds spent the night there.
Today, the architectural structure is in the care of UNESCO, as a result, it was cleaned and put in order, but the interior decoration of the halls was not preserved – for that reason, Matteo Garrone had to hastily fill the space of the premises with the props brought to the castle.
Garrone chose Castel del Monte for the film adaptation of the tales of the Neapolitan Giambattista Basile for a reason, because this place is incredibly mysterious. Although located 16 kilometers from the city of Andria, Castel del Monte bears the honorary title of one of the most famous medieval castles in the world, in essence it is not a castle.
The fact is that in the understanding of a normal person of the Middle Ages, a castle could only be built for one of two purposes. The first goal, it is also the main one – defense and terrain control. In this case, one or another lord erected a small fortress, as a rule, on the top of a mountain, which helped to repel enemy attacks, and at the same time to influence the situation in the region as a whole. The second task is a fortified place to live. Sometimes castles grew to the size of cities, take, for example, the same Carcassonne, but their powerful walls, again, made it possible to hold back hordes of enemies.
But Castel del Monte is not intended for defense at all. Where are the walls and the moat with water? Where are there any decent defenses?
This place also seems to be of little use for life. Of course, even Walter Scott in his “Ivanhoe” wrote that the concept of “comfort” did not exist in the Middle Ages, but this castle, even by medieval standards, is far from the home of a self-respecting lord. It’s okay that all the rooms inside are connected to each other, but, most importantly, there is no place for a stable and there is no kitchen.
So, most of all, the castle looks like a kind of an old art object, built for the sake of ideas, such houses are sometimes designed by modern architects who have received absolute carte blanche for the implementation of their creative ideas coupled with an unlimited budget.
This association is quite appropriate if you know who built Castel del Monte. The castle was built on the mountain by the Emperor Frederick II Staufen – a legendary person in all respects. He not only managed to win the title of Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from competitors and lead the sixth crusade, but was also considered one of the most educated people of his time.
He knew Greek, Latin and Arabic, founded a university in Naples, where not only Christians, but also Jews and Arabs taught, and this, by the way, is the height of tolerance by medieval standards. Frederick II as a whole was very far from Christian prejudices, here are illustrative examples: the emperor insisted that doctors study anatomy on corpses, and Frederick also had a warm attitude towards Fibonacci and even organized mathematical tournaments.
The emperor also had a penchant for writing: he is credited with writing an essay on falconry, and at his court he created a Sicilian school of poetry. At the same time, like all progressive people of his time, Frederick II was an admirer of a wide variety of mystical teachings, studied astronomy and astrology.
With the personal life of the emperor, everything was also interesting, he earned the reputation of Bluebeard, because he was married four times, however, the church did not recognize his last marriage with his permanent mistress Bianca Lancia. Frederick II spawned a great many children – 20 legitimate, but for obvious reasons, no one scrupulously counted the bastards.
Castel del Monte was built by Frederick II from 1240 to 1250, that is, in the last decade of his life. The name of the architect is unknown, but many historians, not without reason, believe that he was the emperor himself – a painfully intricate design was the result.
The fact is that, like many medieval mystics, Frederick was obsessed with the number eight, which symbolizes infinity, and it is constantly traced in the structure of the castle.
To begin with, the castle, when viewed from above, is a regular octagon, and an octagonal tower is erected at each corner of the structure. The shape of the inner courtyard of the castle also repeats the octagon. The castle has only two floors, the roof is flat, and the main entrance to Castel del Monte looks strictly to the east, because, as it was believed in the Middle Ages, the good news came from the east.
There are 8 rooms on each floor of the castle, all of them are connected to each other, so that Castel del Monte can be easily walked around the perimeter. The rooms are made in the form of trapezoids, and windows are cut through the walls. Toilets, wardrobes and spiral staircases are located in the corner turrets.
By the way, the castle has a separate story with the stairs – usually in all castles they are “twisted” to the right, since this is optimal for the defense of the object, but in Castel del Monte, on the contrary, they are “turned” to the left, that is, the way it does nature, because it is to the left that the shells of mollusks or snail shells are twisted.
All rooms of the castle are exactly the same, the rooms differ from each other only in the location of the doors and the number of windows. In the decorative elements, the number eight again dominates: on the capitals of the columns there are eight leaves each, on the bas-reliefs in the rooms there are eight leaves or clover flowers.
Another interesting thing is that direct rays of sunlight fall into the windows of the second floor twice a day (with the first floor, this rule works only in the summer), so many assume that the mysterious castle is nothing more than a huge sundial, and at the same time astronomical device.
In addition, twice a year, during the summer and winter solstice, sunlight is evenly distributed among all rooms on the ground floor. This, of course, is also no coincidence, so many historians suggest that the first floor of Castel del Monte is a kind of analogue of the solar calendar.
Here’s another curious reason for thinking – twice a year, on April 8 and October 8, the sun’s rays pass through the windows of the castle into the courtyard in such a way that they fall strictly on the part of the wall where in the time of Frederick II a certain bas-relief was carved, now lost.
Well, and to make everything quite difficult, it is worth remembering that October in the thirteenth century was considered the eighth month of the year.
Frederick II died before he could finish the construction of the castle – the building of Castel del Monte was completed, but the interior decoration was not completed to the end. After the death of the emperor, there were legends in Europe that Frederick did not die, but disappeared in an unknown direction in order to reform the church and establish universal brotherhood and peace.
A certain symbolism is seen in this, because the octagon, repeated in the structure of Castel del Monte, in the Middle Ages symbolized the transition from the world of the living to the kingdom of the dead, and at the same time the union of heaven and earth.
Everything is very simple here – a square was considered a symbol of the earth, a circle was a symbol of the sky, and an octagon was an intermediate figure that signified both unity and transition. However, scientists far from mysticism believe that the repeated use of the octagon is simply a reference to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, because Frederick II saw the dome over the cornerstone during his crusade.
Historians are confused by the dubious architecture of the object – in such a castle there was not a single chance to hide from an armed attack. No protective mechanisms were used during the construction.
In addition, the building itself boasts the ideal shape of a real octagon. The castle has also 8 turrets.
Scientists did not fit the theory that this castle was used by noble people in order to rest there after hunting. Castel del Monte looks too monumental and luxurious for this.
Castel del Monte has encrypted and biblical symbols. The fact is that the castle has exactly five drainage basins and five fireplaces, many associate this with the phrase of the Baptist John from the Gospel of Luke:
“I baptize you in water for repentance, but the One who follows me is stronger than me; I am not worthy to bear His shoes; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
So, it is easy to assume that Castel del Monte was for Frederick II an analogue of the temple, built according to his personal project, and this fully meets the ambitions of the emperor.
By the way, this hypothesis is confirmed by another curious detail. If you look closely at the entrance to the castle, you can see a giant letter F encrypted there. If inside the tomb of Frederick II, associations with the pyramids would be inevitable, and so Castel del Monte seems to be a kind of personal portal of the emperor, erected according to his plan and in his honour.
At least when you stand in the courtyard of the castle and, with your head raised, look at the sky, imprisoned in an octagon of powerful limestone walls, even the most inveterate materialists have a feeling of belonging to the medieval magical tradition.
The energy of this place is special, in the style of those “Scary Tales” by Matteo Garrone.
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