Perfect Harmony

I decided to use this title because, as you can see in the quote below, Perfect and Harmony are two adjective used to describe the site by UNESCO. And I wanted this fanlisting because Castel del Monte's geometric design was unique.

Castel del Monte

Castel del Monte (Italian for "Mountain Castle") is a 13th-century citadel and castle situated in Andria in the Apulia region of southeast Italy. It stands on a promontory, where it was constructed during the 1240s by the Emperor Frederick II, who had inherited the lands from his mother Constance of Sicily. It has neither a moat nor a drawbridge and some considered it never to have been intended as a defensive fortress; however, archaeological work has suggested that it originally had a curtain wall. Described by the Enciclopedia Italiana as "the most fascinating castle built by Frederick II", the site is protected as a World Heritage Site. It also appears on the Italian version of the one-cent euro coin.

It is situated on a small hill close to the monastery of Santa Maria del Monte, at an altitude of 540 m. When the castle was built, the region was famously fertile with a plentiful supply of water and lush vegetation. It lies in the comune of Andria, occupying the site of an earlier fortress of which no structural remains exist.

The castle's construction is mentioned in only one contemporary source, a document dating to 1240, in which the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II ordered the governor of Capitanata to finish some works in it. It was never finished and there is no proof that the emperor used it as a hunting lodge as commonly stated. It was later turned into a prison, used as a refuge during a plague, and finally fell into disrepair. It originally had marble walls and columns, but all were stripped by vandals or re-used in constructions nearby.

Design

The fortress is an octagonal prism with an octagonal tower at each corner. The towers should have been 5 m higher than now, and they should have included a third floor. With this hypothesis, it seems that the constraction isn't complete. Both floors have eight deltoidal rooms and an eight-sided courtyard occupies the castle's center. Each of the main rooms have vaulted ceilings. Three of the corner towers contain staircases. The castle has two entrances, an unobtrusive service entrance and an ornate main entrance. Frederick's main entrance featured elements from classical design, and may have been influenced by Frederick's interest in Greco-Roman architecture.

The main wall is 25 m high and the eight bastions each 26 m. The sides of the main octagon are 16.5 m long and those of the octagonal towers each 3.1 m. The castle has a diameter of 56 m. Its main entrance faces east.

The octagonal plan is unusual in castle design. Historians have debated the purpose of the building and it has been suggested that it was intended as a hunting lodge. Another theory is that the octagon is an intermediate symbol between a square (representing the earth) and a circle (representing the sky). Frederick II may have been inspired to build to this shape by either the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which he had seen during the Sixth Crusade, or by the Palace Chapel of Aachen Cathedral.

Occasionally used in this way under Manfred of Sicily, the castle become a state prison under the latter's victor, Charles I of Anjou: here Manfred's sons Henry, Azzo and Enzo were kept as prisoner after 1266, as well as other Hohenstaufen supporters.

In 1996, Castel del Monte was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which described it as "a unique masterpiece of medieval military architecture".

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.

Credits: here and here.

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