Medieval Castle

The Castle, an imposing medieval fortress, is majestically perched on the highest part of the Sant’Angelo hill.

From the end of the 9th and beginning of the 10th centuries, Docibilis (Byzantine hypatos) and his son, John I, both Dukes of Gaeta, ordered the construction of the pentagonal tower and walled in the entire top of Sant’Angelo with high walls and fortified towers, driven by their need to defend themselves against the Lombard invasions.

Castello

Originally it consisted only of the polygonal tower and a fort with three cylindrical towers, located on a lower level. The latter was also designated as the stables for the horses, and the quarters for the servants and gendarmes. These buildings were intended to be a fortress providing a valid defense of the territory, which at the time belonged to the Byzantine Empire.

The descendants of Docibilis expanded the structure and had a second, square, fortified keep built, which was higher and more imposing than the first.

The fortress was part of the duchy until 1073, the year in which it was annexed to the countship of Fondi, under the dominion of the Dell’Aquila family. In 1234, the countship was passed to the Caetani family, who over the next three centuries expanded the fortress, with the construction of (in order of time) the cylindrical great tower, the residential section, and the walkway that unites them.

Next to the external walls of the lower courtyard was the Jewish quarter, “Giudea,” located outside the first residential nucleolus, and encircled by walls that were connected to the rest of the citadel through a door. This door was locked at night to keep the Jews from mixing with the local population. The inhabitants of Giudea were artisans and fabric traders, specialized in silks.

The residential portion of the castle consists of two floors, each divided into three halls, and unites the polygonal tower with the square tower.

After climbing the steep stairs that lead to the only entrance, a machicolation can be seen up high, on top of it. This opening was used in medieval castles for dropping boiling liquids, stones, etc. on enemies. Upon entering the formidable castle, there are two halls to the left that lead to the lower floor via a staircase. The lower floor consists of two large rooms used for housekeeping purposes, as suggested by a large vat, probably used for conserving food. There is also the outline of an old oven and an ancient cistern, used to collect rainwater.

Climbing to the second floor, the remains of a fireplace can be seen, as well as a fresco portraying a saint, perhaps a Doctor of the Church, and a Madonna with Child. It was here that the Caetani family paid for the construction of a family chapel, which leads to the presumption that the neighboring room was a bedroom.

Castello6Ascending the last stairway leads to a large panoramic terrace. From here it is possible to identify the various watchtowers and to view the beautiful landscape that extends from the Aurunci Mountains to the Gulf of Gaeta. It is also possible to see the cylindrical fortified “Crocodile Tower,” named after its base – according to popular legend, there lived a crocodile at its base that was fed prisoners who had been condemned to death. The spiral staircase inside leads to a terrace that encircles the fortified tower.

 

The castle was home to the beautiful Giulia Gonzaga, Countess of Fondi, one of the most celebrated women of the Renaissance, who welcomed artists and writers from the period to her abode. It is probable that even St. Thomas Aquinas stayed here during his last voyage, in 1274, to the Council of Lyon.

During the 1970s, the Province of Latina purchased the Castle from Francesco Saverio Ialongo, and donated it to the Municipality of Itri. During the 1990s, thanks to financing from the Region of Lazio, renovation work was started. On June 14, 2003, the main body of the building was opened to the public, and on September 14, 2007, upon completion of work that had required more than a decade, the entire castle was returned to the community.

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