Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Normans'castle of Monteserico

This is how the castle of Monteserico looks today after being restored, there is a lot more to see, and I will show you in our next post/s.

The Normans' Monteserico castle

This is some history of Genzano Menteserico castle and the Normans as I understand it.

Let me explain first that what I am writing here is a personal story, this story somehow bridges history itself and explains things that most of us did not know before, so, let me tell you that I am adding more and more things as I learn them, most of them of course come from the Internet; you see even though I come from this town of Genzano, there are a lot of things that I did not know, when I left the town, so, this first post is more or less what I knew in the beginning, plus a few personal happenings.  
Since I came to Australia I have worked in the building industry where I met this Frenchmen called Luis, we worked with the same firm for a few years and most times I and Luis worked together, so we knew each other well. Luis came to Australia when France left Algeria and the army of Algeria was dismantled so to speak, Luis was a captain in the army, so he had learned about many army things including army history. Anyhow let me come to the point of why Luis knowledge is important here.
One day I was looking on the TV at the Tour of France, this stage was run in Normandy, so while I was looking at the country side I saw this castle in the background, which I could have sworn that it was exactly the same as the castle that I had been seeing thousands of times from my farm in southern Italy. So next time when I met Luis I asked him about it and surprise, surprise no sooner I mentioned the castle of Monteserico that he knew all about it, so he explained to me.
The Normans have only built two castles one in France and another in southern Italy, and from this castle of Monteserico they would dominate all their conquests of southern Italy. So here is the proof that Luis gave me, which is that the castle of Monteserico has been built from the Normans.
Now I have to say that even with Luis explanation about the castle of Monteserico, I am not sure if he was right to assume that the Normans built this castle, Luis story only shows us that this castle of Monteserico has been used from the Normans, because there are other stories about its origin; in fact there is even a story that this castle was built as a monastery in the beginning and then went through several changes and uses. It was built above a cave where indigenous people used to live a very long time ago.
Anyhow the fact remains that the Norman really had possessed the castle of Monteserico, because history shows us that in the X or XI century there indeed was a great battle around this castle won by the Norman, and therefore the Normans used this castle to dominate their conquests in southern Italy.
To see more click on link below
Now let us go back to talk about the modern Genzano; or should I say the Era when they started to build the modern Genzano as it exists today, we guess that it could have been the twelfth or the thirteen century, and this is what was happening then in the new would be Genzano: You see in this castle of Monteserico that the Norman had used as we have written above, which is about fifteen kilometres away from Genzano and situated East-South-East of Genzano. This is an old castle built perhaps from the Norman’s or somebody else during or after the fall of the Roman Empire when they overrun Italy; to this day no other building has been built near this castle except a small chapel. Anyhow when the Norman domination came to an end somehow later on, it was owned from other important people and one day there was this Spanish Princes called Aquilina Sancia, who later on would become the new founder of Genzano town. 

Aquilina Sancia queen of Monteserico
This is how the modern Genzano came into being;
The story and folklore of Genzano says that it was Aquilina Sancia, who happened to own the castle of Monteserico at the time when Genzano needed help to restart again helped the town restart.  Aquilina Sancia some people say is a Spanish Princes, other people say that this Aquilina Sancia had to do something with the Sforza family and she was a queen. But, anyhow this castle of Monteserico that we have been talking about above, at that time happened to be owned by a rich and powerful family and queen named ‘Aquilina Sancia’ who most likely used this castle as a resort only; because this castle is only a small square building, it is a solid coarse fortress built on a treeless roundish hill with extensive views of the countryside,
Which at that time were mostly grazing lands, with sheep shepherds and some other livestock, and perhaps some wheat farming in a small way? So it would have been ideal for a queen to get away from it all, and still feel safe in that small fortress. (Nowadays that grazing land which is several thousand of Hectares is top arable land, used mainly to grow durum wheat, and is one of the best lands for this purpose.)
Anyhow, this Aquilina Sancia Queen of Monteserico, while she was living in this castle, she liked very much to travel in her stagecoach or on horseback between Monteserico castle and then would be new Genzano of those times, Genzano was then only a small town but she liked it, so she helped it to become it a real town. The folklore story goes that she used a secret tunnel, or a secret way between these two places, as no one could understand how she could manage to travel without being seen, because, while she was thought to be in Monteserico castle, suddenly she would appear in Genzano without seeing her coming or going. She must have been very rich because it is said that, she hid a treasure that to these days has not been found, and the most valuable items consist of a ‘Gold Mother Hen with Chicks’ which has been hidden somewhere in Monte-Serico castle or in the secret tunnels or there about.
To me all those hidden riches and the large secret tunnel that she could run in with her stagecoach is all folklore fantasy. But perhaps there was a small tunnel in Monteserico castle and also one in Genzano small castle that she turned into a monastery, this could allow her to come and go without being seen. In theory it could have been possible that she could drive her stagecoach in one of the caves in the chasm bellow the monastery, and from there through a supposed small tunnel find the way into the monastery above. Therefore, there may be some truth about the tunnel story, even if the rest is all folklore fantasy.

How the modern Genzano came into being
Because this queen liked Genzano, she built a monastery where the old first building was, and because of this monastery the people in the country started moving back in the new town of Genzano, this is how the modern town of Genzano was found and she was loved from building this monastery. It is said that in her old age she moved in this monastery and died there.
We could only imagine that the people of those times had an exaggerated benevolent fantasy for this Queen, because of the good turn she gave to the folks of the new Genzano of those days; since one can say that she was the real founder of the new Genzano, because she financially built the first monastery and a church in Genzano called ‘L’Annunziata’ together with a rich monastery for the order of ‘The Sacred Nuns’ which has lasted up to 1905 the early part of the twentieth century. (Nowadays the church and the monastery have been restored for heritage values) But as it happened in those times, the building of the church and the monastery brought a change of life to those people that were still living in the caves of the chasm and in the fields, because; after that church building they really started to build more houses nearby their church and monastery, and slowly Genzano became a real town.
The reason why most of them left the caves and came to live into town is not clear, the reasons that they left the houses in the fields it was because there was malaria associated with this sort of living. Of course there are other reasons to leave the caves, and it could have been for reasons of safety, or perhaps they had become too many and so had overgrown the caves.
But in moving to town they set a new way of life that would split the community in two, because some of the man folks had to stay put in the chasms and in the fields to look after their flocks, and whatever else they had to do in order to earn a living, either in the caves or in the working fields; while the rest of the community would live in town. So from that time onward there were town’s people and country people belonging to the same town, which is a typical way of life of the rural towns of Southern Italy. Of this typical way of life I intend to talk about in more details, as it has affected my own way of life adversely during my younger days.
But now let me go back to the main story: After most of the cave people moved to live into town, the caves became partly empty. But by now the inhabitant of the caves new that those caves, which in the beginning had been excavated for survival could still be put to good use, because they would be ideal to make wine in them, since they have a constant cool temperature throughout the year, therefore the wine would keep well for a long time, and since then they have made their wines in those caves. Looking at the caves when I was young, the front of the caves have been closed in with a masonry wall, which has a door opening in the centre with a segmental arch above. The doors openings are fitted with a double hung oaken timber doors, which are very solid, even though they have air vent panels built in them, in order to have some ventilation in the cave as there is no other opening in the cave.
Now as I was saying before, that you would be amazed to see when they make their wines, and indeed it is an interesting thing to see, if you happen to be there at the time when they harvest their grapes and they make their wines, as the whole place, which is only a chasm with so many caves, but at that time the chasm becomes alive in its own archaic ways.
Before we talk about the chasm I am going to write a bit more about this castle of Monteserico, I think I have said enough in this hub, so I say see you in my next article.

 Genzano it story
The Normans' castle of Monteserico
Next time with, another post about the castle
Some useful links

Some hub links