At 540 meters above sea level, on the top of a hill, one finds a majestic 13th century fortress dominating the western area of Puglia’s Murgia. A mysterious limestone castle, colored white or pink depending on the time of day, embellished with Gothic mullioned windows, white marble and some remains of coral breccia.
The castle was recognized in 1996 as a World Heritage site by Unesco with a clear and precise motivation: “Given its formal perfection and harmonious blending of cultural elements from northern Europe, the Muslim world and classical antiquity, Castel del Monte is a unique masterpiece of medieval architecture”.
The impressive construction commissioned by Frederick II of Swabia has always been surrounded by mystery. Why was this kind of structure for a remote location chosen? Many have tried to give answers over the centuries. Castel del Monte has been analyzed in the smallest details, the recurring numbers, the perfection of the calculations, the identical geometries, the missing corridors as well as the position.
The castle is closely linked to the number eight: the octagonal shaped block structure, eight is the number of octagonal towers and the sides of the courtyard, eight is also the number of rooms distributed on two floors. In medieval architecture the octagon was the figure coming from the intersection between a square and a circle and had a special meaning, it was the symbol of human and divine perfection, a geometric image of Christ, true man and true God.
The mystery becomes deeper, the interpretations on the castle’s intended use are multiple. The simple Frederick’s hunting lodge was a theory, but also as a place where particular alchemical practices took place, an astronomical observatory, a temple where esoteric rites were celebrated and even references to the pyramid of Cheops and the holy Grail were not lacking. However, the right answer remains a mystery for now.
There is only one certainty: visiting the Castel del Monte with its unique position and fantastic surrounding landscape, you realize the real magic of this place.
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