Castel del Monte – UNESCO World Heritage Centre

When the Emperor Frederick II built this castle near Bari in the 13th century, he imbued it with symbolic significance, as reflected in the location, the mathematical and astronomical precision of the layout and the perfectly regular shape. A unique piece of medieval military architecture, Castel del Monte is a successful blend of elements from classical antiquity, the Islamic Orient and north European Cistercian Gothic.

The Committee decided to inscribe the nominated property on the basis of cultural criteria (i), (ii) and (iii) considering that the site is of outstanding universal value in its formal perfection and its harmonious blending of cultural elements from northern Europe, the Muslim world, and classical antiquity. Castel del Monte is a unique masterpiece of medieval military architecture, reflecting the humanism of its founder, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen.

In its formal perfection and its harmonious blending of cultural elements from northern Europe, the Muslim world, and classical antiquity, Castel del Monte is a unique masterpiece of medieval military architecture, reflecting the humanism of its founder, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen.
Frederick succeeded his father, Emperor Henry VI, in 1197 at the age of three. During his reign, which lasted until 1250, he brought order to his unruly kingdom of Sicily, which included much of southern Italy and introduced a period of intense cultural activity known as the ‘Southern Renaissance’. He was a man of great culture, at home in several languages, with high attainments in mathematics, astronomy and natural sciences; he brought scholars and artists from the Arab lands, Greece, and elsewhere to his court, had the works of Aristotle, Averroës, Ptolemy and Galen translated into Latin, and founded the University of Naples. His many talents earned him the title of Stupor Mundi (Wonder of the World).

He was also an able ruler, who bought social and economic stability to his people. However, his policy in Italy, unlike that in Germany, where he encouraged the feudal system, was that of an absolute monarch. For this reason, and also for defensive purposes, he built a number of strong castles in his lands of Apulia, Calabria and Sicily, the largest and most influential of which was Castel del Monte. It was finished in 1240 and became the permanent seat of his court. With his death in 1250 the Hohenstaufen hold over the kingdom was weakened, and the Angevin dynasty ruled until the mid-15th century. Castel del Monte, no longer the seat of power, like most castles from this period, served as a stronghold and then a barracks until the 19th century, and slowly losing its resplendent decoration through pillage, vandalism and neglect.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

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