Extraordinary Architecture: Castel del Monte
07 April 2021
One of Italy’s most visited landmarks, the medieval Castel del Monte was completed in 1240 and was recognised as a triumph of mathematical precision by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in 1996. You may unknowingly be keeping a depiction of Castel del Monte in your purse or wallet: turn over an Italian one cent coin and you’ll instantly recognise the octagonal fortress.
One of Puglia’s most treasured landmarks, Castel del Monte rises up over southern Italy’s Murgia region, close to the Adriatic Sea. Built in 1240 by Emperor Frederick II who loved hunting in the region, the castle’s strategic location provided advantageous views of the surrounding landscape during the Middle Ages. Not only did it come with breath-taking panoramas, but the fortress guarded the fertile countryside, famous for its lush vegetation and rich soil, with many of the local farms producing exquisite wine and olives.
Emperor Frederick II's empire was vast, and during his lifetime he ruled over Sicily, Germany, Italy and Jerusalem. A pioneer of modern humanism and of German descent, the Holy Roman Emperor enjoyed uniting influential international thinkers, and in doing so inherited many Eastern and Western traditions which are visible in the building’s clever design.
The impressive exterior may appear minimalistic, yet the entire design of this 13th-century fortress was extraordinarily complex and advanced for its time, merging mathematical and astronomical precision, reflecting the intellect and power of Frederick. The building marries classical architecture with Islamic influences and Europe’s Cistercian Gothic style, contained in a unique and iconic octagonal design. The octagon comprises the shape of the square, symbolising the earth, and the infinite flow of a circle, which represented the limitless sky above. Its once grand interiors are accented with Eastern influences. Inspired by typical Arabic customs, Emperor Frederick II adored frequent bathing which led to the creation of an innovative plumbing system which captured and conserved rainwater to be used throughout the castle.
Italy’s southern coastline is a trove of hidden beaches, striking landscapes and idyllic towns steeped in history. Castel del Monte is one of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the region, which are all within easy reach of our stylish and elegant resort, Masseria Torre Maizza. Located in the most glamorous destination on the Italian Adriatic coast, Masseria Torre Maizza is a luxurious base from which to explore this exquisite slice of Italian history.