The Lagopesole Castle
venue of the Mediterranean Contemporary Art Prize 2019
Most magic is the sunset.
The latest sunbeams light up the marvelous castle ploughing through the sandstone bricks, a treasure chest of golden reflexes slowly turning into red. And when the moon alone gently brightens up the night, the Castle stands out against the sky, dominating the valley beneath, guarding ancient secrets and stories. It's in that very moment that history and legend melt together into a shade of charm and splendor.
The Lagopesole Castle is the last and the largest residence ever built by Emperor Frederick II in Basilicata, between 1242 and 1250. It served as a hunting and leisure lodge, erected on a suggestive position of a territory of great strategic importance since the Early Middle Ages.
Its square-shaped, quadrangular, symmetric structure and isolated towers recall the Byzantine castles or the legendary crusader fortresses, bearing the mysterious power of evoking faraway lands, sounds, languages and habits of the multi-ethnic Frederick II's court.
The Lagopesole Castle, the Middle-Ages famous portum Montis Vulturis, is the most authentic expression of Frederick II’s architecture.
Considering the surrounding forest as the ideal place where to play his beloved art of falconry, in 1242, Emperor Frederick II of Swabia started widening works on the earlier Norman stronghold in order to turn it into his summer residence.
A rectangular building, it is divided into two yards where rooms organized on two levels overlook. On its angles, it shows four square-shaped towers.
Today, an imposing portal set between two tall and narrow twin towers provides access to a barrel vault gallery leading to the large rectangular courtyard, where the elegant zig-zag portal of the church looks out over the space. Consisting of a single nave, the semi-circular apse is embellished with frescoes depicting saints, dating back to the XIII century.
From the courtyard, all indoor spaces of the superb building are accessible. Opposite the church, on the first floor, the decorated double-arched windows of the Emperor's Halls can be seen, adorned with beautiful corbels which, as the most admirable ones of Frederick II's style, should’ve served as a support for archivolts.
Adjacent to these spaces is the Queen's Hall, where the remains of mechanisms for music amplification and space heating are still visible. On the main entrance to the hall is a rosy stone sundial, measuring time for centuries.
The Armigers' Hall, with its stables on the ground floor, closes the courtyard on the third side next to the church. A curtain wall with an architraved door at its centre separates the major from the minor courtyard. At the centre of the minor courtyard stands the donjon, the majestic square-plan tower recalling the castles of the Emperor's Norman ancestors.
Frederick II of Swabia
King of Sicily, Duke of Swabia, King of Germany from 1212 to 1220, Emperor of the Sacred Roman Empire and King of Jerusalem, he had all the features of a modern man endowed with extraordinary culture and energy. A multifaceted charming personality who has inevitably captivated historians' and people's attention since his time, keeping alive a number of myths and legends, whether good or bad. Literatus, statesman, condottiere, legislator; nowadays, he is mainly renowned for his free, eclectic and incredibly ahead-of-time mentality.
His reign was essentially based on a strong legislative activity and cultural and artistic innovation, so as to unify lands and people. He himself was an appreciated man of letters, committed patron of artists and scholars.
His Magna Curia was a meeting point for cultures such as the Greek, the Latin, the Arabic and the Jewish. Without any race or religious discrimination, his court gathered all the greatest men of culture of his time with the most avant-garde theories, drawn mostly from the leading Oriental schools.
This attitude led Frederick II to be surrounded by excellent mathematics like Leonardo Fibonacci, scholars from the nascent astronomy academy like Michele Scoto, musicians, doctors, legislators, philosophers, among which the famous jurists Benedetto da Isernia and Roffredo di Benevento stand out.
His court would move around the whole kingdom in a scenographic cortège to promote amazement, encourage the loyal subjects and intimidate the enemies.