The castle

castello vista  lato nord

The castle is one of the most important monuments in Monte San Giovanni Campano (FR). It was built before the year one thousand and it is characterised by a pentagonal and a quadrangular tower. The quadrangular one consists of a military building whose walls are 3,5 metres thick containing two turrets, a double-direction patrol path and different ways out.

Southwards, opposite the quadrangular tower, there is the "papal prison" provided with the security systems of that period. The prison was made out of the medieval structures and it was enlarged during the 18th century.

il palazzo ducale attualmente il palazzo ducale  - cartolina d'epocaNext to the prison there was the ducal palace. In origin it had five floors but nowadays there remain only three of them. The building was so tall that it was called "the d'Aquino's Tower", as it stood high above the keep of the castle. In the castle the Romanesque and the Gothic styles merge and create a vigorous and at the same time refined architecture.

Nowadays, on the ground floor there are two armouries, one of them is very big. On the first floor there are four halls. Each one is adorned with a double lancet window whose columns are decorated with scenes. In the official hall the double lancet window has a crowned head with ancient dresses (Frederick II of the Swabian family?) carved on the capitol of the quadrangle column. On the last floor there are the rooms where St. Thomas Aquinas was imprisoned.

Through the present gardens you reach the "d'Avalos palace" which stands on medieval walls. The palace incorporates the ground floor, the main part of a rectangular tower and part of a communication trench that joined the pentagon tower to the ducal palace with four slits. The "d'Avalos palace" was restored and in part rebuilt after the II world war. Today its large rooms house the restaurant called the "Corte d'Avalos ".

Its main entrance is on the left corner of a building that leans against the pentagonal tower. This latter, which is 25 metres high and whose walls are at least 2 metres thick, represents a rare example of a 12th century military architecture. The battlement of the tower was restored during the second half the last century.

These settlement buildings represented the noble part of the castle and the dukedom's military logistic, politic, economic and cultural centre. Next to them there were the defensive and service buildings. In origin the castrum had five entrance doors, nowadays three of them still exist. (The "Scrima door" is a valuable work of art).
Many walls protected the central part of the castle. According to the Gregorian land registry, the outside wall was fortified by many buttresses, bulwarks and by 36 squared, rectangular and semicircular towers. At present less than a half of the original towers still exist and they are mainly devoted to an improper use.

The castle could hold more than a thousand soldiers and it was one of the most efficient and impregnable fortresses in the centre of Italy. It was not able anyway to hold the attack of the king of France, Charles VIII, and his sixty-thousand-soldier army. In 1495 the French was moving southwards in order to conquer again the Reign of Naples and were furnished with a new and devastating weapon which had never been used before in Italy: the gunpowder cannon. After hard battles the king of France succeeded in entering the fortress: he did not spare human lives and stole 25 thousand gold coins.
(See Yvonne Labande-Mailfert: Charles VIII, la conquète, France, 1995, pp. 290-293. )

The illustrious guests

The castle was Pope Hadrian IV's summer residence. He suffered from asthma and used to come to this healthy land to cure him.

From 1240 to 1242 St. Thomas Aquinas was imprisoned in the castle (it was already a d'Aquino Counts' property). During his imprisonment a prostitute, with his relatives' connivance, tempted him. Many biographers carried this episode and it was testified during his canonisation trial. Later on, the Saint's last nephew, Antonella d'Aquino, transformed the imprisonment room into a gentilitial chapel and adorned it with a valuable triptych.

Pope Pius V raised the feud of Monte San Giovanni Campano to a dukedom in memory of the two-year imprisonment. Afterwards, Pope Gregorius XVI conferred it the title of "city" with its proper privileges.

The poetess Vittoria Colonna, Michelangelo Buonarroti's muse, has also lived in the castle.

In more recent times the castle hospited the eminent cardinals: Francesco Satolli, Camillo Laurenti, Federico Tedeschini, Enrico Lepicier, Vincenzo La Puma, [in 2004, Josè Saraiva Martins and Joseph Ratzinger] who in various occasions manifested their devotion to St. Thomas Aquinas.

Archaeological finds

Some pieces from the collection of the future museum of the castle that will include also a little library with precious texts of historical value.

vaso capitello