Rocca Albornoziana fortress

Albornozian Fortress of Spoleto

One of the very first things one must see, upon arriving in Spoleto, is the Rocca Albornoziana, which from the hill of Sant'Elias towers over much of the Spoletana Valley. History has it that it was Pope Innocent VI who imposed its construction, to re-establish the authority of the Church. Since 1309, in fact, the Pope and the Curia had resided in Avignon, and in anticipation of a return to Rome, the Spanish Cardinal Egidio Albornoz was entrusted with the complex task of restoring order to the territories. Matteo Gattapone da Gubbio, an expert in military architecture, was appointed in 1362 to build the fortress, a defensive stronghold in the heart of the Papal States. The Cardinal, who died in 1367, did not get to see the work completed; nevertheless, the Rocca has been closely associated with his name ever since.

Lucrezia Borgia the most fascinating woman of the Italian Renaissance

Considering the need to restore order to the region, the fortress was designed as a tool for controlling and defending the territory. In the fortress resided the governors of the city, often chosen from among the closest relatives of the pontiffs; among them the best known is certainly Lucrezia Borgia, "secured" in Spoleto in 1499 by her father, Pope Alexander VI (Lucrezia was also sister of Cesare, Machiavelli's famous "Prince"), who did everything to ensure that she would not be reunited with her husband Alfonso of Aragon.

As evidenced by the numerous papal coats of arms adorning the entrances, towers and two courtyards, the Rocca in the 15th and 16th centuries was often visited by Pontiffs who sometimes elected it temporarily as a papal residence. In 1499 Nicholas V stayed a few months in Spoleto to escape the plague in Rome.

A prison ... frescoed

Spoleto's Rocca Albornoziana has a rectangular plan measuring 130 x 33 meters and six towers. From 1817 to 1982 it was used as a prison and only since 2007, following major restorations that uncovered numerous pictorial testimonies from the 14th to the 18th centuries, has it become the home of the National Museum of the Duchy of Spoleto.

The six towers

At the vertices of the rectangle and half of the longest bodies of the building are six towers. To the east is the Torre Maestra, the tallest, with the Torre della Balestra to the left and the Torre Nuova to the right. On the western side, however, are the Torretta (or Tinello Tower), the Water Tower and the Oven Tower.

Courtyards, loggias and salons

Inside the Rocca are two courtyards: the Cortile delle Armi, intended for soldiers, and the Cortile d'Onore, intended for papal governors. The two courtyards are divided by a transverse wall and connected by a fornix frescoed at the time of Pope Gregory XIII, as recalled by the coat of arms in the center of the vault. Also depicted on the sides are five cities of the Papal States: the port of Anzio, Perugia, Orvieto, Ripatransone, a city of the Marches, and Spoleto. Leaving the Cortile d'Armi one can go up to the Upper Loggia, then to the piano nobile where there is the great Hall of Honor in which the governors of the received guests and celebrated banquets. So here we are in the Camera Pinta, on whose walls is one of the most important cycles of secular painting from the early 15th century in the region, with love scenes amid images of hunting, fishing and stories of knights.

Other Albornoz fortresses in Umbria

Other dominion fortresses were erected were in Assisi, Todi, Spello, Orvieto and Narni, cities dominated by these fortresses as majestic as they were austere.



Piazza Bernardino Campello, 1, 06049 Spoleto PG

Hours of operation.

Daily: 9:30 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. (last admission 6:45 p.m.)


0743-224952; 0743-223055

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