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Coastal towers and castles in Calabria - Evidence of the past


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The long land from the saracen charts Ê7 Ê 1/Ê, Ê Ê   --Ê," / ,Ê "1/-/, /  Ê/"7, -Ê/ Ê / ,,  From one shore to the other in the Great Inner Sea that does not divide but unites, “daring navigators depart, taking along with them the Gods from their original cities, in search of new lands, where to found new colonies from which temples will be raised.” For Calabria these are invasions of different types of people, attracted by the great forests of pines, oaks, chestnuts all with high treetrunks and Silan pitch that could be used for their ships. Armed to the teeth, the invaders devastate and brutally upset the newfound land, appropriating the Mediterranean trinity: the harvest of golden wheat and the millenarian cultivations of vines and olives. They absorb, assimilate and drive inland the populations which already submit to faraway kings; the bruzis are incapable of resisting the attacks which come from the sea, the crumbling of the fortifications, the fires the massacres, the pillage of their villages. It is the contaminations of encounter/collision between East and West which marks the “Long land.” in the Saracen charts, a wide but fragile and defenceless frontier outstretched on the Mediterranean. From then on ,in the Bruzio territory “myths mingle and religion integrate into one single tissue, which is that of the history of the civilization of the region”, and signs of different culture, alternate in revealing or concealing themselves in the different ways of life of the Calabrese, in the traits of their amazing faces : Greek, Saracen, but also Longobards, Normans or even Albanians. With the continuing changes in language and traditions, joined by a fervent religious feeling, the little towns and villages of Calabria ,where feudalism has never completely disappeared, have so many events to recall noble origins on the complex successions of the scourges of the Muslim raids and the aggressions that came from East and West. From the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Long land is overturned by a “succession of raids, invasions, external and internal wars, destined to shatter dominations, to overturn equilibriums, to overwhelm dynasties and centres of power, in the search of a balanced order which seems however unreachable”. It is a continuous suffering; for a very long time the Bruzio people searched for a stable government and for governors outside and above the grounds of external domination. “The great games of the present, have often been played, won or lost in the past and the armed presence on the Bruzio territory of Saracens, Eastern Imperial troops, Longobards, Normans, Angevins, Aragonese,

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Turks, invaders from Barbary coasts, Austrians and Spaniards is certainly responsible for one of the many negative conditionings of the history of the South.” The origin of the distinguished historical development of Calabria from the rest of Italy is due to the continuous and paralysing pressures that it has been put through and that have contributed for thousands of years into turning the Bruzio lands into a frontier between East and West; a frontline between Christianity and Islam, determining “ the diversity of minute spaces, fragmented and never reassembled of the small nations” of a strongly “cellular” region. The Calabrias result into being made up of twelve sub regions and each of them in turn, differentiating in mountainous and coastal areas, that don’t have any physical and

historical elements in common and thus preventing a harmonic synthesis for a possible economic and social development. These are lands that are “constant social/economic frontiers where often the daily battle for survival is fought and lost in favour of abandon.” Each domination has left its own traces, not completely cancelling those before, and the events of the “Iron Centuries” reflect on these lands, uprooted finally by those two civilizations that determined its fractioning and its diversities. Europe and Italy on their part have almost totally ignored Calabria describing it since the beginning of the 19th Century with vague and generic information which sketch it, as the writer Carlo Carlino puts it: “an emphatic picture in a vision anchored to the past.”

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the waters of the Mare Nostrum (‘our sea) as the ancient Romans used to call the Mediterranean sea) are no longer presided, and so piracy restarts in full strength. The Byzantines, more than others give life to raids, assaulting in open seas the defenceless ships and on the coasts, the fishermen. In 534 A.D. the civil wars between the Goths, give an excuse to the emperor of the East, Giustinian I , to intervene in Italy so as to complete the reconquest of the western part of the empire. The Byzantines find in the Bruzio the cultural common roots of the Magna Grecae where the Latin soul and the Greek one cohabit even after the fall of the Roman empire. In 535 A.D. the Greek troops commanded by Belisario and Narsete move in arms , from Constantinople and after landing in Sicily, meeting no resistance and thus conquering Syracuse and Palermo , cross the Strait and reach Reggio. In the Long land every resistance is broken down harshly and the Eastern imperials pillage even the churches. In 554 A.D. the emperor Giustinian extends the Byzantine law to Italy and the extreme part of the peninsula becomes a colony to exploit in favour of the East. In 603 A.D. the Bruzio is under the complete control of the imperials who take men and women into slavery to relegate them in the Nuova Roma (New Rome) Constantinople, and then sell them off to the Arabs who take them away to their countries. In the 7th Century the great Arab nomads, who came from the deserts of the nearby East, united under one single flag, and go in search of means of subsistence outside their own territories. They render unstable the Byzantine defences, convinced of being the real representatives of the true faith and to be beholders of heavenly support in the search of their Mediterranean plan. The Byzantines were rather suspicious, also because, the Moslems were starting to display their fleet, built in the middle east dockyards which were supplied with crews of made up of Syrians, Palestinians and Lebanese. The Bruzio Long land, starts to prepare itself in welcoming waves of hermits escaping from all over the East invaded by the Arabs, and starts to become a real Byzantine outpost, reacquiring its own Mediterranean vocation. The mountains, unknown to the scarce population hidden in small villages, become refuge to the hermits, and according to Vera Von Falkenausen, a German researcher on the Byzantine domination of southern Italy, in Reggio the most populated city in

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Greek language And culture And latin soul


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In the course of the ten iron centuries, as Emilio Barillaro defined them, one of the major experts in art, archaeology and culture of Calabria; slender galleys and Turkish and Berber vessels that at first hoisted the green flags of the Prophet and then the red flags with the half-moon, bring forth from the intense blue of the Mediterranean, mourning and ruins onto the coasts of the Christians infidels. From the 8th to the 14th Century, on the marvellous beaches, bays and high cliffs of the Bruzio, from the galleys over forty metres long and over six metres wide, with one or two masts bearing Latin sails ,with 25 or 30 oars each side, banners in the wind Moslem troops and knights, land. Fernand Braduel, the great scholar who has revealed to the world the culture and connections of the Mediterranean countries, said “ at the first slash of sabre by the Arabs, everything crashed down forever: Greek language and philosophy, western organisation, all was lost forever. It’s as if, one thousand years of history had not taken place.” The Saracen raids are the “ tragic calamity of the Byzantine domain and of the Basilian art in the Bruzio, (…),they compel the riverside population ,thriving especially in the Magna Grecian period, to retreat from the coasts and take refuge in the most hidden recesses up on the mountains, on inaccessible slopes , and to set up fortifications, bastions, towers , any sort of stronghold in which to escape from the assaults of the ferocious Moslem hordes.(…) The golden ages of the italic civilization, that had flourished on the horizontal planes of the wonderful marine expanses, will find their complete metamorphose in the iron ages of the Turkish rule, founded on the vertical lines of the civilization of cliffs and towers”. From 754 A.D. for the Byzantines and from 774 A.D. for the Longobards the bruzie lands are named Calabria, and become scene to many battles and the bulwark of Christian defence; here begins the long Mediterranean Moslem/Christian conflict , it’s “ the never-ending night”, and whosoever “had the strength and the means, started to build new villages down in the ravines ,or on those mountains, or in those forests, that in mournful emergencies had been used as refuges.” Owing to the great distance and the perils of the travels from Calabria to Constantinople, it became

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A sequence of wars destined to break up dominations and to overwhelm dynasties

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In the 9th Century all over Calabria, because of the invasions coming from the south by Sicilian Arabs and from the North by the Longobards , from the duchy of Salerno, Byzantine castron and castellions start to be erected , and these are strong points, mightier than the little fortifications that guarded the chora ( land, farmland) and the little peasants huts. The military presence of Constantinople is doubtful for the lack of soldiers and proper means of defence, while the imperial marine suffers from the Moslem naval supremacy. The Long land is in a strategic position in the Mediterranean, but even if it is so far from the empire’s capital, only the Byzantines fight the Saracens to bring back Calabria under their complete domain. Religion starts to differentiate from the State and dictates rules that even the rulers have to submit to; the Christian soul refines the laws and softens the conquering spirit so as to turn the Byzantine army into an instrument of defence of the borders, and as Giorgio Fedalto, a scholar of the Eastern Christianity writes “ from the remains of the Roman empire rose the Christian empire, or as was said later, the Byzantine empire.” The Saracens, or Moors or Arabs or Moslem started to invade the coasts of the Long land from 827 A.D. to 1091 A.D. from the nearby Sicily, the island an Arab fortified stronghold , and from Ifrìqìya Tunisia the western ramifications of Algeria and oriental Cyrenaica , for uncountable raids and to set up their strongholds at Amantea, Bruzzano Zeffirio, Cosenza, Fiumara del Muro or Motta dei Mori, Fiumara Saraceno Fiumefreddo Bruzio, Laguna di Placanica, Motticella, Rocca Imperiale, Sambatello, Santa Severina, Saracena, Scalea, Squillace, Stilo , Tropea and especially at Reggio where the Moslems in 952 A.D. erected towards the sky, the minaret of their mosque. The holy war, of the Saracens , who at the cry of Allah akbar ( Allah is great) revolt against the bruzi villages inhabited by al-rum (Byzantines), al-nasrànì ( Christianised Romans) and al-nukubard ( Longobards), is a nightmare that will characterise the lives and identities of a long sequel of Calabrese generations. Owing to the worsening of the Arab aggressions, the Eastern imperials decide to build several fortresses and watchtowers to defend the bruzie coasts and they also organise a naval team which cruises the Strait of Messina. From the 9th to the 11th Century in the harsh, wild woods on the imposing mountain slopes,

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The building of castles by the calabrese population



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They are not lacking in courage those Norman squads that come down in those small villages of Calabria where Greek, Latin and Arab is spoken. Soon the bruzie lands get to know the violent temperament, the diplomatic abilities and the unappeasable greediness for land and wealth of the Altavillas. It’s the Calabria of the peasants who are revolting against the cruelties of the Byzantine patricians, while awaiting that the weapons and armies of Roberto il Guiscardo and his brother Ruggiero il Normanno dictate the laws and make history. The first actions that the men from the North undertake, get caught up in the disputes between Longobards, Byzantines and Moslems, in which meanwhile, also join in , the papacy’s reasons for wanting to reduce the influence of the two empires both eastern and Germanic in the south of Italy. The local lords, economically poor and weak militarily, are always at war with one another and with the Longobard Principalities of Benevento, Salerno and Capua and with the Byzantine empire. In the Norman knights vanguard that reach Calabria in the first half of the 11th Century, there is an inborn wish to settle down in those stretches of country that are not barbarian. The first cadets of Normandy, in search of fortune in the Bruzio, spur others to reach them; they are elated by the tales that celebrate the lands of the Magna Graecian civilization and of the western spirituality, attracted also by the gentle climate, the wheat, the vines and the olive trees. The ranks of soldiers are followed by groups of men in search of new acquaintances, who find in the Bruzio according to Georg Ostrogorski in his History of the Byzantine empire , a Calabro-Greek administrative system “unequalled, with an articulated bureaucratic apparatus composed of specialized public servants, a superb military technique, an elaborate legal status, and a highly developed economic and financial system “. According to the Norman historian, the monk Goffredo Malaterra, ever since the Norman conquest ,the Long land is made up of “ civitates et fortissima castra” ( population and strong encampments) . His chronicle describes the Byzantine settlements, between the reconquest of the late 9th Century and mid 11th Century , and he tells us about the five urbes, (cities) twenty one castra(encampments) , and some castellia, the fortresses of foundation o restructure, built by the men from the North who according to Emilia Zinzi, an art historian, go on to form “the installing net on which the productive and living organization is based on, during the one and half century of the Norman domination.” The urbes mentioned by Malaterra are Regium and Sancta Severina, seats of metropolis , Geracium, Russanum, Cusentiae, for their fortified order and for the political, religious and administrative role. In the territories of the Pollino

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The norman conquest

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and in the valley of the river Crati the castra Orioli, Sancti Marci with Scribla, Tayside, Bisiniani and the urbscastrum Cusentiae; on the mountainous spine of the range Catena Costiera Ayellum and Maruranum; on the high promontory on the Tyrrhenian sea which dominates the valley of Lao, Scalea; in the area between the plain of Sant’Eufemia and the Ionian sea, Neocastrum, Nicefola,Maja, Rocca (Falluca), Catanzarium, Sckillacium; in the south-west pre-Sila Rogel (Rogliano); in the eastern one Gerentia, with the urbes of Sancta Severina and Russanum; from the Turma delle Saline (Plain of Gioia Tauro); towards the plateau of the Aspromonte, Oppidum and Mesanium; on the western slopes of the Serre that overlook the Ionian coast, Stilo and the urbs-castrum Geracii; on the Poro the castrum Melitense; on the Strait the urbs Reggina with its fortifications. To all these small towns, internal and hilly, except Reggio, we can add those of Cassanum on the southern bastion of the Pollino, of Nicotrum and Tropea on the Poro that overlook the Tyrrhenian, Insula on the extreme Ionian branch of the Marchesato, all sees and the great Byzantine town walls, interspaced with towers, of San Niceto on the Strait, to the tip of the Bruzia Long land. With the Altavillas, the Bruzio castles are transformed into fortified residences to give hospitality to the feudatories that came from Normandy. Under their drive , from 1054 A.D. onwards, together with their characteristic and unique ability to blend the cultural influences of the Latin West and the Arab and Byzantine East ,works of defence are built in Calabria . Some of these castles are built by rearranging pre-existing Greek, Roman and Byzantines fortifications, on the top of the hills where Calabrese small towns are starting to expand. The historian Antonello Savaglio in his book Fortissima castrum, writes that “ the Normans determined a change in the building of castles, which became stronger and more imposing, thanks to the use of bricks and stones, materials which were more resistant than wood, largely in use in the construction of the castrum in the Byzantine Age and were thus able to stop the missiles, hurled by the siege artillery, made up of ballista and trebuchets ” . These new fortresses, surrounded by moats and provided with drawbridges, parapets, jutting out defences and barbicans, are erected centred off in respect to the houses, in order to better defend the territory and

œÀ“>˜Ê >Ã̏i ­££Ê̅ʣÎÊ̅ʣ{Ê̅ʣxÊÌ…Ê i˜ÌÕÀÞ® to “remove the likelihood of insults and the evil will of those in the city ”. “ The Normans used to besiege the urban castle positioned in the outskirts (…). In this logic are also included the castles built near the sea. (…) or inserted in the defensive enclosure on the coast to defend the settlement, but also to control the port or the access littoral road.” To bear witness to the brisk constructive zeal of the men from the North, in the long procession of castles in Altomonte, Arena, Bisignano, Bivona, Bova, Bovalino, the Bufolaria in Cassano allo Jonio, Castel Leone (Castiglione Marittimo), Castelvètere (Caulonia), Catanzaro, Crichi, Crucoli, Fràncica, Gerace, Malvito, Martirano, Mileto, Vibo Valentia, Motta Filocastro, Morano, Nicastro, Nicotera, Rende, Sangineto, San Marco, Santa Severina, Scalea, Squillace. Magnificent are the cylindrical keeps in the fortresses of Malvito and San Marco, with the imposing tower of Drogone il Normanno. From the bastion of Cosenza, included in the State property, the Norman monk Goffredo Malaterra , refers that it was built in bricks with l’arte coementaria “ a prince or a great lord have resources , especially monetary ones, which allow them to build in stone, while a country squire must recruit the peasants from his district, to raise his hill and build his wooden tower.” The daily life in the castles is livened by violent events and others which call to mind the jus primae noctis, a Norman right which gave the baron the right to spend the first night of marriage, with each of the brides in his feud. Living in a castle, in the Middle Ages meant to keep a continuous watch over the territory, fight off the enemies, practice with weapons such as boulders, bows and arrows and barrels studded with “ very sharp nails” , and most of all give up privacy. The lord and his family lived in a single room, barely illuminated due to the windows which were just loop-holes and that in winter couldn’t be heated for fear of fires. With the conquest of the region by the Altavillas (1048 A.D. to 1061 A.D.) begins a period of peace and tolerance, and the imposition of a strong feudal model. For Calabria it’s a period of stability, but scholars scatter and what the ancients had discovered is forgotten and the knowledge passed on from the Greeks, disappear.

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The Altavilla clan / Ê, /Ê ", Ê* Ê\Ê Ê-// Ê//Ê-Ê"-/Ê Ê *, The Norman politics in Calabria aim to create a multi-racial State where different races, cultures and traditions may coexist peacefully. From this comes forth “ a complex civilization, different from any other ; Arab in the organization, Norman in the military structure and Byzantine for the language and culture.” The men from the North ,writes don Nicola Ferrante, a priest from Reggio who studies the Byzantine world in Calabria, “ are profoundly religious, and after the first encounter in the war for take-over, with the Greek element, they realize that , that perfect bureaucratic organization and more even that cult, with the striking rites and those profound and mysterious icons, touch even their Christian heart . So they become very generous with the Latin, but they do not want to forget the Greeks. They start rebuilding some of their monasteries, abandoned because of the Arabs, and start building new ones too.” In Calabria, the catholic religion with Latin and Greek rites coexist with the Moslem one. “ Friendship and even sometimes consideration are not infrequent between Arabs and Christians.” Ruggero ,robed in the Arab dalmatic, is surrounded by Francs, Latin, Greeks, Longobards and Saracens who “ didn’t have to feel like strangers or perceive any prevarications from anyone of the other races, but , according to the project of the men from the North’s great earl, had to feel like people of one single nation.” At the feet of the feudal castles, Greek cities, Moslem villages, Longobard colonies, with the roads occupied by Pisani, Genoans, Amalfitans and to the sound of ringing bells and the monotonous songs of the muezzin on small minarets, many people can be seen dressed with the Moslem mantle and turban, the Norman mail, the long Greek tunic, and the short Italian cowl. The presence of the Altavillas determines a significant event for the artistic history of the South, and according to Giuseppe Occhiato, historian of the men from the North , right in Calabria originates a new architecture of Norman stamp, the Calabrese Romanesque precursor to the Italian one, and it fits in as central character in the artistic fervour that renovates the face of Europe in the 11th Century. Francesco Abato writes in his History of the Art in Southern Italy that “ Calabria manages to tries out solutions that are very complex and registers changes in a larger measure than that of any other region in all the Mediterranean area.” In the Benedictine abbeys of Santa Maria di Sant’Eufemia (1062 A.D.) and Trinità di Militello (1063 A.D.) we recognise the works of the abbot and architect Roberto di Grandmesnil, who came from Saint-Evroul-en-Ouche. “ Administrative organization, economic effort, religious politics, figurative production, all tell us about the vitality and

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Frederick II of Sweden (1194 A.D. - 1250 A.D.), takes to the apogee the Norman project, which changes the history of the region “ in terms of political /administrative, social, cultural and geographic unity”. One hundred years ahead of his time, Frederick works in a passionate interlacing of elements in the western culture and in the eastern one, protecting in the same manner catholic and Moslem scholars, erudite Hebrews, and Provençal poets, with a personality which “ dominates his contemporaries”. “The creativity of his spirit” allows him to build in such a splendid manner, stone fortresses, and as heir to the Norman and Byzantine world , “ sows the fertile seeds of new art era.” According to Georgina Masson in her Frederick II of Sweden , the emperor brings “ order wherever he goes, inspiring and imposing obedience “ , he cares about improving and enlarging the system of fortifications that was left to him from his Norman predecessors, and, to the pope’s great disappointment, he has no intention of separating the imperial crown from the realm of southern Italy. He works in such a way as to cancel the feudal oppositions, bringing down every lordly fortress in the realm and adopting a system of government which completes and rationalizes whatever innovation comes from the political experience of the Altavillas. “ Whosever wasn’t endowed with such a strong character as Frederick would have given up the idea of restoring order in that rebel realm and would have renounced at the creation of stately strongholds all over the country to weaken the power of the feudal barons”. With the Edict of Capua, Frederick imposes the restitution of the castles that were built arbitrarily by vassals o built on stately land after the death of William II (1189 A.D.), to dismantle or to turn them into strongholds for the crown, which had to maintain them with armed men and provisions. The improvements in the machines and in the besieging systems around 1200 A.D. , decree the failure of the Norman structures , which are reinforced by the Swedish emperor, after Easter 1221 A.D. Frederick goes ahead with the creation of a single defence system which was supposed to block every road of access to the enemy. The emperor turns his attention to the reinforcement of the fortified structures and nominees a Provisores Castrorum who every three months would have to inspect the castles under his jurisdiction , and would write out a report “ containing the names of the lord of the manor or the members of the garrison , the eventual offers of substitution, and the punishments to be inflicted.” The transformation of the castles into fortresses is carried out by the emperor ,

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Calabria the preferred scenario for pillages and engagements by the angevins and aragonese


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"- Ê ",-,With the arrival of the French, Charles I d’ Anjouking of Naples and Sicily from 1266 A.D. to 1285 A.D. - who came into power thanks to the protection given to him by the pope Clement IV and who preferred him to the prince Manfred, natural son of the Hohenstaufen, tries to improve the political system inherited by the Swedish. He puts the thick feudality at the monarchy’s service , and according to Emile G. Lèonard in his Les angevins de Naples, “ embodies firmly into the state land or into the lordly feudalities , the administrative freedoms of the cities and intensifies, not without inconveniencies, the State’s participation in the economic life in a merchantlike prospective.. He also continues the Swedish course of action in the care for roads, ports, fairs and markets.” During the Angevins period, survival in Calabria is hard ,while decadence progresses, and the population is reduced to a servile condition and must undergo the feudal arbitration and in the region there aren’t any big cities anymore. In 1276 A.D. in the justiciary of Val di Crati and Terra Giordana the most important city is Rossano with a fertile territory, irrigated by streams and torrents, and produces oil and every kind of fruit.. Crotone is in the centre of a plain, fertile and well irrigated, “ a good port, certainly less efficient than the ancient Greek wharf, but still sufficient for small ships.” The third city in order of greatness is Geneocastro (Belcastro), that at 533m a.s.l. dominates the river Crocchio, which with other torrents washes a large territory that is fertile in grain and chestnut groves and also rich in pastures . Bisignano dominates a land rich in waters and soil products. Strongoli stands on a rock and overlooks a territory that is rich in soil products, pastures and woods, and is washed by the river Vitravo. The town of Cetraro is characterized by fertile lands that produce oil and generous wine. Acri is a prosperous town, market for timber, bees wax, pitch and cheese produced in Sila. Scalea dominates a coastal plain, has a small

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˜}iۈ˜Ê >Ã̏iÊ­£{Ê̅ʣxÊÌ…Ê i˜ÌÕÀÞ® the arise of war between the contestants to the throne of the Reign of the South, they rob and plunder one another, through their pirates. The Angevin answer is immediate and the military dispositions ordered by the king of Naples Roberto I on the 5th May 1309, establish first of all the checking over the safekeeping of the castles and of the inhabited places by captain Tommaso Estandardo, then the distribution of provisions and ammunitions and finally , increase in the numbers of servants in the manors of Reggio, Calanna, Scilla, San Niceto, Bagnara and Motta di Muro.” Giovanni d’Anjou , count of Gravina, brother to the king of Naples keeps a watch over these works; he came to the region with the rank of general captain of Calabria, Valle Crati and Terra Giordana, followed by a great army “to defend those provinces and mainly the lands and the fortresses by the sea.” which are shielded in 1327 A.D by order of the Angevin admiral Ademario Romano of Scalea, who considered decadent those of Reggio, Bagnara, Tropea, Crotone, San Niceto, Calanna and Cetraro. A great effort will be made in the following years ,to improve fortifications , due to the recrudescence of the Saracen raids and for the continuing disputes between the French and Spaniards. To the first fortifications made by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Normans and Swedish are added the ones built separately by feudatories and by the clergy. At the end of the 14th Century, the Angevins erect the characteristic cylindrical towers that overlook the creeks and inlets, there , where the perils from pirates and Moslem and Spanish corsairs may

hurt more. The life of the Bruzie population is monotonous, scanned by the rhythms of the harvests and religious feasts and the Angevin art “ does not express immortal voices”. The church of Santa Maria della Consolazione in Altomonte is one of the most important examples of gothic-Provençal architecture.. In the re-adaptation and in the construction of their castles in Amantea, Belmonte, Belvedere, Vibo Valentia, Nicotera, Placanica, Reggio, Roccella Ionica, Sangineto, Villapiana, of the Norman tower in Altomonte, and the striking distaff in Praja, the Angevin workers import architectural models from the Frenchgothic style with decorative elements such as rosewindows, pointed arches and portals and they also tend towards a major structural uniformity with square plant and curtain walls, spaced with regular towers. The French ,fix the ramparts perimetrical walls in the Norman-Swabian castle of Cosenza and the corner towers set out in couples, higher and quadrangular, those on the north side, lower ant octagonal those on the southern side, and thus transform the fortress into a princely residence. The rooms in the castle, the great hall with the enormous fireplace, the armoury and the throne room ,the magnificent hall, topped by cross-ribbed ogival vaults decorated with fleur-de-lis shields , are evidence from the first months of 1433 till November 1434 of the brief love story between Louis III d’Anjou, duke of Calabria and Marguerite of Savoy. The dynastical disputes between the Angevins and Aragonese go on until 1443 when the Realm of the South goes to Alfonso of Aragon.


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The feudal overlords and the universities strengthen towers and castles and erect fortifications

With the Aragonese, perils and violence do not end; famine is added to the growing desolation and malaria grows as large zones in the plains are left to the overflowing of torrents. In order to survive, the population forced to defraud in the numbering of the fuochi while the crown extends the already numerous privileges to the feudal class and to the clergy, while the State’s income is insufficient for the economics needs of a prestigious foreign policy and to suppress the frequent baronial rebellions. The external threats continue with the frequent Moslem raids from their ports in North Africa and from the Middle East come the Turkish and Byzantine galleys, sailing the seas at six or nine miles per hour, with the Christian captives at the oars rowing at the beat of the drums from their gaolers who walk up and down the alley of the galleys whipping them relentlessly. When these vessels reach the Calabrese coasts they raid the settlements situated on the Ionian and on the Tyrrhenian seas . The Aragonese try to avoid rebuilding the big new feuds that are capable of competing with the crown and always ready to rise up whenever the favourable occasion occurs .They also raise the tributes that encumber on circulating goods and the duties imposed on food especially those of great consumption, such as oil and wine, and they also resume the notorious collections. Naturally those who pay the most are usually the poor. The one person who speaks up against the high number of privileged and on the meanness of the tax agents, is Saint Francis of Paola; he doesn’t hesitate in denouncing the abuse of power committed at the expense of the poor and in accusing the Aragonese of misgovernment: in his letter written in 1447 A.D. to his influent friend Simeone d’Alimena he remarks that “ a gentleman from Naples, counter of the fuochi in the Province (….) is an annoying person with no discretion, (…) such a man with no reason or sense of charity will be the last ruin (…) of all the other poor Lands in our country.” The great thaumaturgy saint who will join Louis XI in France, to try and save the Catholic Europe from the immense Moslem attack, concludes his writings saying that “ (…) the ministers of the crown, not impiety, which they use continuously against poor persons, widows, wards, cripples and such wretched persons ,those who have reason to be exempted of every burden. Woe to those

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the works of restructure of the castles â&#x20AC;&#x153; conforming them to the new defensive requirements with the help of the most expert, military architects of the timeâ&#x20AC;?, and provide to all necessities for the castles of â&#x20AC;&#x153; Lamantia, Corigliano, Castrovillari, Castella, Cotrona, Mocta, Bivona, Pizzo, Policastro and Rigio. â&#x20AC;&#x153; The expedients adopted by the Aragonese architects regard , mainly the lowering and thickening of the walls, while the old loopholes , having arches and cross-bows been substituted with muskets , are transformed into circular openings. The medieval battlements, useless in the face of artillery, are replaced by merlons that are solid sections of wall with external edges that are blunted and splayed, and by embrasures that could take cannons. At the base of the walls, new apertures are made , and in the internal part of the towers the light artillery is placed so as to clear the moats with grazing shots.â&#x20AC;? At the conclusion of the works, on the main entrance of every structure a commemorative bas-relief is placed in the new walls and on the protective coverings above the entries. The tests on the new constructions are undergone by the ďŹ ring from the cannons of the king Charles VIII of France, who on the 3rd September 1494, crosses the Alps to conquer the realm of Naples. The Angevin arms, knock away the modiďŹ cations carried out on the fortiďŹ ed structures and the armies of Charles VIII meet no resistance, so on the 22nd February 1495, they occupy the capital. â&#x20AC;&#x153; A park of artillery of modern conceptionâ&#x20AC;? establish the transalpine success and the failure of the new architectural defence, and accord-

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Stories of pirates and corsairs


Ever since 1535 A.D. the name Saracen will also indicate Turks and Berbers who continue the undertakings of their predecessors. The continuous Turkish raids never encounter any obstacles on land or sea; the naval defensive presence on the Tyrrhenian and on the Ionian is unknown, the garrisons and the coastal fortifications are lacking in manpower and badly armed; they usually have access to only one cannon, but no gunpowder or cannon balls. As soon as the enemy was sighted, militiamen, tower men and horsemen , had the simple job of warning the population of the imminent danger, in order to allow them to leave their villages and take refuge on the mountains, leaving to the Turkish and Berber crews all that they could not take away with them. The defence of the rumi is disconnected and contradictory and the chronicle of the raids is enriched with stories of bloody battles , of legendary characters surrounded by myth ; of stories of pirates and corsairs, of men so faraway and different, of adventures such as those of Kamal Rais, known as the Camalicchio, the nightmare of the Sicilian ,Calabrese and Pugliesi population in the first years of the 16th Cent., of Khair ad-Dais , the most famous corsair in the Turkish empire. Others join the list, with uncertain personalities such as Torghoud raìs Dragut, the terror of the Tyrrhenian, a pirate so fierce that the mere pronouncing of his name made one’s blood run cold, not only to Christian sailors. On the 11th March 1536 Juan Sarmiento inspects the coastal towers, the castles and other works of defence in the region and his report to the king Charles V, states that many fortifications are in a very bad shape, judging some of them such as those of Amantea, Cotrone, Oriolo and Tropea of no military importance and insufficient for defence and for Giuseppe Coniglio the royal report concludes with the hope of ulterior construction of fortified structures, suitable for defending the population living on the coast .In the periods of relative calm, from the growing peril that came from the sea, there are alternating periods of recrudescence of the phenomenon, which induce, in the first half of the 16th Century, the restoration of the ruined towers, as instruments of defence and to rebuild new ones wherever it seemed necessary , especially in those places more vulnerable and exposed, thanks to experience of previous attacks. From 1537 onwards, Charles V, (15001558) the Ruler of the world , convinced that God had invested him with great powers, so as to defend Christianity from the assaults of the Ottoman empire, orders the construction of a flexible system of coastal towers, able to withstand the feared Turkish invasion. The royal order is to realise a formidable defensive range and the viceroy , Pedro di Toledo (1484-1553), starts it off all over the vice realm. In 1559 there is a greater impetus in the reconstruction of the works of defence and the first laws are emanated to repair the damages

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In order to maintain the hegemony on the Mediterranean, Calabria, under the Spanish scheme, becomes the first barrier in the system of occupation; the region has no longer the antique role of bastion to Christianity as in the Byzantine era, it is now the dam of passive resistance to the impact of the Turkish forces and the Africans regencies to the exclusive advantage of the Iberian marine. The Iberian politics puts Calabria at the mercy of Berber and Turkish corsairs, who use it for it’s central position in the Mediterranean , as the bridgehead for their raids on the Italian coasts and as it is the most vulnerable part in the Spanish theatre of operations, it undergoes the greatest damages. Of the bruzie lands , the Turks and Berbers know every bend of the rivers, current, coastline, creek, the blow of winds, and so the coasts are raided and the villages and countryside pay the heavy price of men and things. Fear encumbers on the population and the mere appearance of a single suspect fusta (pirate galley) provokes panic and the population flees to the woods; the constant threat prevails over the consciences and determines the very present and future of the region. No one knows the aim of the pirates and corsairs, no one knows the size of their means of transportation or the number of the men at their disposal for raids and no one understands the reasons for the frequent attacks against the same city; every Calabrese knows that on any day in the good season , devastation and deaths may come from the sea. The terror caused by the Turkish attacks is used by the Spaniards to perpetuate the voluntary state of bondage of the Calabrese population to the feudal class. In order to contrast the Moslems and to pursue their aim of occupation, the Spaniards believe that it is necessary to make stronger their legitimisation. The State doesn’t have the means to protect autonomously the coasts ,and the ethnic and religious solidarity becomes functional for victory on the alternative social form represented by the Ottomans. According to Vincenzo Mangini without the participation of the population, it is impossible to organize a very thorough defence and the fight against the Turks gives an excuse to justify the dominant political arrangement. It becomes necessary to insinuate in the population’s state of mind, the Spanish vision of sense of duty, of respect and compliance to the interests of the Iberian crown and

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A frontal contrast between two identities and two faiths

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 --Ê, this becomes a head to head contrast between two identities and two faiths. With the collaboration of the upper classes, the Iberian control, expands intensively on the bruzie communities, and against the Turkish land -raids all the population rises and the villagers become peasant-soldiers : “ may all and each person of the Lands and locations of our State, and inhabitants of such places aged 15 onward and 60 downward, supplied with firearms, bullets, gunpowder and fuses, keep himself ready and waiting for defending the nation, and must at the first sound of alert or beat of the drum rush out armed.” The imposition of the Spanish model and the rancour for the injustice suffered, produce feelings of defiance that result in seeing the Moslems not as an enemy but as a possible ally. “

iÕ`>ÊœÀÌÊ­£ÈÊÌ…Ê i˜ÌÕÀÞ® If the Calabrese senses authority as an irrational and indisputable fact , he knows however that it is always an authority of men “ and the defensive mission assigned to Calabria fails for the continuous desertions that tend to create connivance with the Turks. The cavallari ( horse-keepers) of the coastal towers, do not alert the Spanish soldiers of the sighting of suspect fleets, gripped in the vice of two contrasting schemes of the political and military power of the time, Catholic and Moslem, Spanish and Turk; the serfs revolt against the feudatories and join up with the Moslems, awaiting them on the seashores in order to embark on corsair ships, leaving for Tunis and once there to become janissaries.

The Calabrese have little faith in providence and in the foresight of the current rulers , and in spite of the victory at Lepanto and the governing dispositions that regulated the building and use of strongholds; in Calabria towers and small castles still continue to be built. On the bruzie coasts, after the last spring showers, it is necessary to pay great attention to the guard service ; in the garrisons of the towers the torrieri (tower keepers) have the task of alerting the population and the nearby towers in case of incursions. The system of signals, between the towers and the nearby lands in case of peril on the approaching of galleys, brigs or galliots , is regulated in such a way that, with the alarm sent out, from tower to tower to alert all the coast, the tolling of the bells and smoke signals during the day, and fires lit on the tower tops during the night, it was made clear the exact number of enemy ships that had appeared on the horizon. The cavallari, well armed soldiers who in groups of two explored the coasts by day and night, in the trip from one tower to the next, took part in the defence system; “if the cavallari sighted corsair ships near the shores, they had to alert the tower keepers by shooting with their harquebus, and dart to alert the nearby terrazzani (villagers).” The torrieri ( tower keepers) and cavallari ( horse keepers), were controlled by strict regulations, and protected by special beneficial conditions: “that those persons who are destined to be on guard cannot be incarcerated for debts in that period in which they are working, i.e. from 23.00 h of that day until the next morning, half hour after the public gates have been opened.” The militia who break the rules will be fined fifty ducats: “ captain at arms, mayors, designated persons, house owners, and any other minister must not , nor dare to, use the cavallari, guards tower keepers for any kind of service directed to their exclusive benefit, inside or outside the land, not for one day, but not even for one hour, in which case the cavallari, guards and tower keepers will loose one month’s pay every time and the persons who have abused of their time will be fined ten crowns, and of such fines the third part will be devolved to those who will disclose the fact”. With the autumn comes the bad weather, in October the oceanic depressions bursting with humidity, driven from west to east unchain terrible tempests with winds which overturn the Mediterranean and so all the ships long or round, galleys or sailing-vessels cast anchor and take shelter; a safe harbour in winter is the rule, the ships will set sail the next spring and the danger of incursions is dimmed.

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Towers, keepers of the towers and peasants

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Numerous fortresses loose their original military purpose and are transformed into residences to the nobility. To the Calabrese feudatories, their wealth is synonymous to power and as the Baroque culture requires, builders use their best workmen to create elaborate façades where magnificent portals stand out like the one in the castle of Fiumefreddo. It is common practice for the proprietors to take full possession of the residence only when the portal is completely finished all inclusive of the coat of arms, distinctive mark of the family status, opportunely set in place. The apartments of these new dwellings, are endowed with every comfort, and the lodgings where the lordly family life goes on, are the quarters which take up an entire floor of the building and revolve around the main hall, “a welcoming and sumptuous setting created to astonish” like the ducal castle of Corigliano. In all the castellated residences “there is a chapel for religious rites, a gallery and in the Lord’s office are books put up on shelves or in large trunks, together with other effects: Venetian cloth, oriental carpets, pottery from Faenza Chinese boxes, which are proof of the great cosmopolitanism, present in Calabria during the modern times. A place of relative privacy for the Lord of the manor and his family is the bedroom, while there are several antechambers where the courtesans and vassals are made to wait. The kitchens are on the top floors to prevent the spreading of fire. In the lower floors are the warehouses for provisions and the prison with all its instruments of torture; as well as the inevitable dungeon.” Life in the castle is ruled by the baron’s mood and in the State castles, by those of the Lord, who surrounded by guests, knights, poets, acrobats and minstrels , doesn’t miss a chance to indulge in his position of commander in chief, whose authority at the beginning of the 17th Century is limited to a disciplinary outline, which means having been assigned military and civic purposes and thus becoming a direct tool for maintaining law and order. Between 1707 and 1734, in the period of the Austrian domination, the coastal defence systems undergo another evolution willed by Charles VI of Austria, who obtains a radical transformation with the enforcement of new warfare tactics, inspired by the French and


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Stone gardens

In the last decades of the 18th Century, according to the notes of Mirella Mafrici, an historian of the castle Art, the decreasing threat of invasions, weakens the Bourbonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s political will to provide to the defence of Calabria and the realm. To emphasise the degradation during the biennium 1806-1807, the Napoleonic and English artillery on the Tyrrhenian coast, dismantle many strongholds such as the ones in Amantea, Fiumefreddo, Cirella and the fort San Michele at Santa Maria del Cedro. During the Jacobin period, the Norman-Swabian castle of Cosenza returns to its original function when Joseph Napoleon Bonaparte enters the city in triumph. The new king of Naples assigns to the magniďŹ cent Bruzio manor a large garrison commanded by general Massena. The realm is divided by the French Jacobin into provinces, districts and communities headed by mayors. In 1810 the next king of Naples Joachim Murat, on occasion of the garrisonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s settling into the castle of Cosenza, a garrison made up hundreds of soldiers, climbs with all his military court, the splendid eighteenth century monumental staircase. With the return of the Bourbons, the towers of Calabria are almost all crumbling, and with the rescript of the 21st February 1827, their use is ordered further more, and some are handed over with the surrounding grounds to the managements of war, telegraphs and other state companies. The French conquest of Algeria and the beginning of the European predominance in the Mediterranean, ends the long period of terror, rape, pillage and kidnappings caused by the Berber raids. Once that the function of defence of the towers has lapsed and once they are disarmed with the suppression of the garrisons, all the system of coastal safeguarding surrenders to neglect. Many towers are abandoned, others are granted to private citizens, with the consequential transformations and the variations for civil use; others still are used by the State for the suppression of contraband. The degradation and the abandon of the towers and castles in Calabria is completed by the earthquakes that took place between 1836 and 1870 and also thanks to the negligence of the feudal and middleclass families that own them, and thanks to the downfall of feudalism and to the Unity of Italy. Many fortiďŹ ed structures on the coasts, and castellated residences of the Calabrese small towns, are abandoned and neglected and so become grand â&#x20AC;&#x153;stone gardensâ&#x20AC;?. In the 19th Century the social priest of Acri, Vincenzo Padula, in his book Calabria before and after the Unity, afďŹ rms sadly that â&#x20AC;&#x153;every town has ruins of some castleâ&#x20AC;?. Jean â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Marie Roland de la Platière at grips with adventurers and fortiďŹ cations between Capri and the Strait of Messina, observes that it isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t sufďŹ cient to place a gun-carriage on these bastions or a platoon of brave soldiers â&#x20AC;&#x153;pour redonner de lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Ă me Ă  un people abattu â&#x20AC;&#x153;(to give back spirit to a knocked down population). With the Era of the Berber piracy from North Africa now at an end while the ships of Ferdinand II â&#x20AC;&#x153;of the Royal Neapolitan ďŹ&#x201A;ag protectedâ&#x20AC;? are engaged in battles against the slave-trade in Calabria, the time has ďŹ nally come to regain the land for cultivation and for the reclamation of marshlands from the devastating action of rivers.

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Coastal towers and castles in Calabria - Evidence of the past



15-8 Coastal towers and castles in Calabria 17X24 Eng ebook  

L'ebook in inglese Coastal towers and castles in Calabria. Evidence of the past, si sofferma sulla contrapposizione frontale – per dieci sec...

15-8 Coastal towers and castles in Calabria 17X24 Eng ebook  

L'ebook in inglese Coastal towers and castles in Calabria. Evidence of the past, si sofferma sulla contrapposizione frontale – per dieci sec...