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Castel del Monte, the Citadel of Mysteries

Castel del Monte, 37 mi from Bari, is one of the 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.
Commissioned by Frederick II of Swabia in the 13th Century, the Castle is a massive and dominating octagonal structure that sits on a small stretch of the Murge plateau in Apulia, 11 mi from Andria.  Castel del MonteUniversally considered an example of genius medieval architecture, Castel del Monte actually unites elements of diverse styles and traditions from different epochs in history. Visitors can see this in the Romanic lines of the lions at the Castle’s entrance, in the Gothic cornice of the towers, in the Classical movement of its interior frieze, in the defensive grandeur of the structure in general and in the Islamic refinement of its mosaics.

Built in c. 1240, Castel del Monte became the permanent seat of the Court of Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (who became sovereign of the Kingdom of Sicily at three years of age). The monarch, nicknamed “Stupor Mundi” for his eclecticism and his enormous culture, bequeathed his own mysterious air and enigmatic legacy to the Castle itself.  

The mathematical and astronomical rigor of the Castle’s design, based on eight as a guiding number, and its position, emphatically studied so as to create symmetries of light during the winter solstice and summer equinox, have merged into a symbolism appealing to scholars for centuries, and leaving its visitors both pleased and perplexed by its nature. While the Castle possesses a military look and some of the attributes, it does not feature the usual elements of military monuments from the same period, such as a wall and moat, and stables, for example. 

Eight are the sides of the Castle, and eight are the rooms on the ground floor as well as on the second floor; the rooms are trapezoidal, and placed in an order so as to form yet more octagons. The corners of the Castle are attached to eight towers that are, of course, octagonal. It is said that inside the Castle’s courtyard was installed a pool of water, itself another octagon. 

The solid compactness of the mixed limestone and quartz on its facades is grazed by mullioned windows (monofore on the second floor, bifore on the third, and in one case, trifore). The main entrance - in a coral-colored marble known as breccia corallina - reproduces the classic triumphal arch that frames another pointed (lancet) arch, defined as “a sort of prelude to the Renaissance.” The Castle's interior, with its high, cross-vaulted ceilings, seems but a ruin, left without its original decorations that, in the past, rendered it majestic. All that remains today are broken pieces of marble and mosaic, the large parts of which disappeared through centuries of neglect and vandalism. 

The two interior levels are linked by spiral, counter-clockwise staircases inside the towers – another anomaly for a military fortification of its day. Particularly interesting is the hydraulic installations of Oriental origin.

An invaluable masterpiece of Italian history, Castel del Monte fully deserves its designation as a World Heritage Site. Visit this enigma of a castle and live its 1,000 mysteries!

Useful Information

Barletta - Andria - Trani

Useful Links
P.zza Federico II di Svevia - 70122 Bari
Tel+39.0883.569997 (Ticket Office)
Fax 39.080.5245540
Touristic Association Pro Loco Andria, Province of Bari 

April 1 to September 30: 10:15 AM - 7:45 PM (Ticket office closes 7:15 PM)- October 1 to March 31: 9 AM – 6:30 PM (Ticket office closes 6 PM)
Closed on December 25th and January 1st