The Swabian Castle of Rocca Imperiale

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The Swabian Castle of Rocca Imperiale

The Swabian Castle of Rocca Imperiale has accompanied the South through nearly eight hundred years of history.

Highly coveted and bolstered over time until the unification of Italy, by the end of the 19th century it was instead abandoned to neglect. It was thanks to the Cappa family, who purchased it in 1903, that it has reached our days in good condition. The heirs lived within the walls until 1989 when they decided to donate it to the community. It stands atop the hill where the village lies and is located 250 meters above sea level. Its history begins with Frederick II of Swabia in the 13th century, who ordered its construction following the edict of Capua. By signing it, he mandated the construction or renovation of 200 castles for defensive purposes throughout the South. It was built in a highly strategic location both in military terms and for communication routes. While it overlooked the old Appia-Traiana road, which from Reggio Calabria hugged the Ionian coast until it joined Brindisi with the ancient Appian Way, it also controlled the naval movements of the entire Gulf of Taranto. It was during that period that the adjacent urban nucleus developed thanks to settlements from nearby towns. In 1271, Charles I of Anjou, who stayed in the castle for several months, entrusted the fortress to the Knights of the Order of Saint John. In the 15th century, however, Alfonso II of Aragon, Duke of Calabria, not only strengthened the fortress by adding enclosing walls and battlemented towers but also expanded it to cover many parts of the old Swabian monument. In 1664, the Saracens launched a forceful attack with 4,000 units on the fortress. A strenuous resistance prevented its fall, but not the devastation and looting of Rocca Imperiale, which, among other things, lost the ancient 13th-century church located in the historic center. Today, only the beautiful Romanesque bell tower with mullioned windows and cornices remains. In 1717, the Crivell dukes transformed the fortress into a small royal residence. However, with the abolition of feudalism, they got rid of the furniture and furnishings. In 1835, the castle became the property of Bishop Pujia of Tursi who, abandoning the idea of establishing a seminary there, initiated the period of devastation mentioned above. Today, for visitors, the spectacle is majestic instead. Upon entering, all its mystery is preserved unchanged. From the panoramic terrace, finally, there is a breathtaking view of the town of Rocca Imperiale and the Gulf of Taranto.

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