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Rocca Albornoziana fortress

Spoleto’s Rocca Albornoziana

One of the very first things to see in Spoleto is the Rocca Albornoziana (Albornoz Fortress) which overlooks a large part of the valley of Spoleto (also called Valle Umbra) from atop Sant’Elia Hill. History says that Pope Innocent VI ordered the building of the fortress, to restore the authority of the Church over the area. In fact, since 1309, the Pope and the Curia had resided in Avignon and, expecting the Pope’s return to Rome, the complex task of restoring order in the territories was entrusted to the Spanish cardinal Egidio Albornoz. Matteo Gattapone of Gubbio, an expert in military architecture, was appointed in 1362 to build the fortress as a defensive stronghold in the heart of the Papal State. The Cardinal, who died in 1367, was unable to see the completed work, but the fortress has always been closely linked to his name.

Lucrezia Borgia, the most fascinating woman of the Italian renaissance:

The fortress was designed as an instrument of control and defence of the territory, to restore order to the region. The governors of the city, often chosen from among the Pope’s closest relatives, resided in the fortress; among these, the best known is surely Lucrezia Borgia, secured in Spoleto in 1499 by her father, Pope Alexander VI (Lucrezia was also the sister of Cesare, the famous “Prince” addressed by Machiavelli), who did everything possible to reunite with her husband Alfonso of Aragon. As evidenced by the numerous papal coats of arms that decorate its entrances, towers and two courtyards, the Rocca was often visited in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by the Popes, who sometimes used it temporarily as a papal residence. In 1499 Nicholas V stayed for a few months in Spoleto to escape the plague of Rome.

A frescoed prison:

The Rocca Albornoziana in Spoleto has a rectangular plan of 130 x 33 meters and six towers. From 1817 to 1982 it was used as a prison and, following extensive restorations that brought to light numerous painted decorations dating from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries, has it been the seat of the National Museum of the Duchy of Spoleto since 2007.

The six towers:

The fortress has six towers, at its corners and midway along its longer sides. They are named: on the eastern side, the tallest is Torre Maestra, flanked by Torre della Balestra on the left and the Torre Nuova on the right. On the western side are the Torretta (or Torre del Tinello), the Torre dell’Acqua and the Torre del Forno.

Courtyards, arcades and halls The fortress has two courtyards: the Cortile d’Armi (courtyard of weapons), intended for soldiers, and the Cortile d’Onore (courtyard of honour), for the papal governors. The two courtyards are separated by a transverse wall and connected by an arch frescoed at the time of Pope Gregory XIII, whose coat of arms is seen in the centre of the vault. On the sides, five cities of the Papal State are also represented: the port of Anzio, Perugia, Orvieto, Ripatransone (a city in the Marche region) and Spoleto. Leaving the Cortile d’Armi, you can climb to the Upper Loggia, then to the piano nobile where the governors of the city received guests and celebrated banquets in the great Hall of Honour. Nearby is the Painted Room, whose walls are decorated with one of the most important cycles of early 15th century secular painting in the region, with romantic scenes of stories of knights and of hunting and fishing.

The other Albornoz fortresses: 

In Umbria Other dominion fortresses, as majestic as they are austere, were built in Assisi, Todi, Spello, Orvieto and Narni.

Hours: from 1 April to 30 September 2022 – every day: 9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. (last entry at 6:45 p.m.).

Tickets: adults € 7.50 (over age 25); youth ticket € 2,00 (18 - 25 years); free for EU citizens under age 18

Address: Piazza Campello, 1 – 06049 Spoleto (PG)

Telephone: +39 0743 223055

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