Following the eagle
by Renata Covi
In Umbria the numerous castles of the territory represented the border line between two worlds: the Romans Empire and the Longobards Kingdom.
In the area of Todi there are many evidences of this past. Between the XII and the XIII century, the town of Todi started to become very powerful. It was necessary both defending its borders and expanding its territory; for this reason a solid defensive barrier was built. The defence line ran from Todi to Marcellano and from Massa Martana to Gualdo Cattaneo. All the castle were under the dominion of Todi, firstly of the Atti family and then of the archbishopric, which marked them forever by affixing its coat of arms: an eagle with a grifagno eye and turkey legs.
The highland castles have resisted time and earthquakes, many are still inhabited, others are restored and others have been transformed into residences. Finding them is like a treasure hunt. Most of them are characterized by the presence of only the main road, which roses them and the silence of nature.
The hidden castles
One of the castles hidden between hills and woods is the one of Viepri. The village has only one entrance door, dominated by the coat of arms with the eagle of Todi, an unique narrow street and a small church dedicated to Saint Giovanni. The Assignano Castle is not easily found. From Pantalla, following the indications, you arrive in a place so isolated and silent that invites to walk on tiptoe. The walls are a bit shabby, due to the great battle in which Perugia was defeated by Braccio from Montone. Passing from the only door, with an eagle, you enter a pleasant and well restored village.
The Frontignano Castle is impressive, it can also be seen from Todi. The XIII century square tower stands out from afar. The village was so important that it required the intervention of Cesare Borgia and eventually, that of Julius II to ensure its possession to the Church. Todi also left its mark with the eagle above the entrance door. The Torri Castle remembers a bit Frontignano, but much more towers are present. From them it derives its name. On the front, the high walls raise, inside them, pigeons find a shelter. Following the well paved path, it turns around to the entrance door with the unmistakable eagle.
A romantic place: the petroro castle
The road that goes up to Petroro follows backwards the route that ran along the pilgrims who descended from the North to reach Rome and stopped to pray in small chapels dedicated to local martyrs. The Petroro Castle, was one of the small fortified village along the way. A large internal courtyard and the Todi coat of arms on the front door are still visible. Once, the travellers found food and a place where sleeping and, even medical assistance. The castle has returned to new life after the damage caused by the earthquake in1997. Today it is inhabited by a group of Orthodox monks, who contributed to transform the village into a place, where pilgrims are welcomed, as in the ancient times. In summer in the courtyard of the castle, theatre performances are staged by Todi Festival.
The eagle out of place
The Barattano Castle passed through various lordships but for a long time it remained under the jurisdiction of Todi, which marked it with an eagle, which however is not above the entrance door, but out of the medieval walls.
The Cisterna Castle: fields, olive trees, hills, vineyards and finally Cisterna. A formwork with Guelph merlots overlooks the valley, a small road and that’s all. Braccio from Montone and his army spared the Cisterna of today. Eventually Todi took the village under the protection of its archbishopric. In this case too there is the eagle but also in Cisterna it is not where it is supposed to be.
Ruggero Iorio, Le origini della diocesi di Orvieto e Todi, alla luce delle testimonianze archeologiche (1995)
Emore Paoli, Marcellano indagine su un castello medievale umbro (1986)
Vincenzo Fiocchi Nicolai, Umbria cristiana, dalla diffusione del culto al culto dei santi (2001)
Atti del convegno internazionale e studi sull’alto Medioevo
Paolo Boni, San Terenziano e il suo altopiano
Maurizio Magnani, Il signore di Collazzone (2010)
Italia – Umbria: Istituto geografico de Agostini (1982)
Alexander Lee, Il Rinascimento cattivo
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