Issogne Castle, Valle d’Aosta

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Castello di Issogne is a castle in Issogne, in Aosta Valley.

It is one of the most well-known manors in the area and is situated in the heart of the populated area of Issogne on the right bank of the Dora Baltea. The Renaissance-style seigniorial palace of the Castle is significantly different from the austere Verrès Castle, which is situated in Verrès on the other side of the river.

The Castle seems from the outside to be a fortified dwelling with angular turrets that are somewhat higher than the rest of the structure. It lacks any distinctive adornment. The Castle is located in the heart of Issogne’s settlement.

The Castle was constructed using a quadrangular layout, with the building on three of the four sides and an Italian Garden on the fourth, which is south-facing and encircled by a wall.

Interior of Issogne Castle, Issogne
Interior of Issogne Castle, Issogne (source)

The pomegranate-shaped fountain at Issogne Castle and its lavish portico, a rare example of medieval Alpine painting with a cycle of frescoed vignettes of everyday life from the late Middle Ages, are its most notable features.

A papal bull published by Pope Eugene III in 1151 is the first reference to the castle of Issogne and refers to a fortified structure there that belonged to the Bishop of Aosta. There may have been a Roman villa on the site in the first century BC, according to some walling that was found in the modern castle’s cellars.

Inner Courtyard of Issogne Castle, Issogne
Inner Courtyard of Issogne Castle, Issogne (source)

Around 1333, when the castle of Issogne, the episcopal seat, was assaulted and burned down, tensions between the Bishop of Aosta and the De Verrecio family, lords of the nearby town of Verrès, reached a boiling point. The bishop of Aosta bowed to the authority of the lord of Verrès at the time, Yblet of Challant, in 1379, but Issogne continued to serve as the seat of the bishop until then. Yblet transformed the episcopal stronghold into an opulent Gothic-style princely house with a number of towers and structures surrounded by a wall.

Interior of Issogne Castle, Issogne
Interior of Issogne Castle, Issogne (source)

When Yblet passed away in 1409, his son Francis of Challant (French: François de Challant), who in 1424 was given the title of Count of Challant by the Duke of Savoy, inherited the feud and castle of Issogne. Francesco passed away in 1442 without leaving a son. James of Challant-Aymavilles (French: Jacques de Challant-Aymavilles) prevailed in a protracted succession battle over Catherine of Challant, Francesco’s daughter, and her cousin Catherine of Challant, making James the second Count of Challant and the new lord of Issogne.

Following James’s death in 1487, his cousin, the prior George of Challant-Varey (French: Georges de Challant-Varey), to whom James’s wife Marguerite de la Chambre had assigned guardianship of his sons Philibert and Charles, continued the renovations begun by James’s son Luigi di Challant in 1480. George ordered the construction of new wings to link the old structures, forming a single horseshoe-shaped complex centered around a central courtyard. This era is represented by the portico’s embellishments and the well-known pomegranate fountain. The future emperor Sigismund of Luxemburg during his return to Germany in 1414 and King Charles VIII of France in 1494 were just two of the distinguished visitors who were received at the Castle.

Interior of Issogne Castle, Issogne
Interior of Issogne Castle, Issogne (source)

When George of Challant passed away in 1509, construction on the castle came to an end. The Castle was converted into a home for Philibert of Challant, his wife Louise d’Aarberg, and their son René of Challant, who oversaw the Castle’s greatest glory and served as host to a wealthy and affluent court. Philibert of Challant succeeded Louise d’Aarberg as the new lord of Issogne.

When Renato di Challant passed away in 1565, he left no male successor. His property was left to René’s daughter Isabelle’s husband, Giovanni Federico Madruzzo, sparking a more than a century-long inheritance battle between the Madruzzo family and Isabelle’s Challant family relations. After passing from the Madruzzo family to the Lenoncourt family, Cristina Maurizia Del Carretto di Balestrina gained the lordship of Issogne and its Castle in 1693 and was finally returned to the Challant family in 1696.

Frescos at the Inner Courtyard of Issogne Castle, Issogne
Frescos at the Inner Courtyard of Issogne Castle, Issogne (source)

Giulio Giacinto, the last count of Challant, passed away in 1802, putting an end to the Challant family. The Castle’s furnishings were removed and it fell into disrepair after being abandoned for a while. Baron Marius de Vautheleret, the castle’s owner, was compelled to put it up for auction in 1872. It was purchased by the Turin painter Vittorio Avondo, who renovated it and furnished it with replicas of period furniture as well as some of the original furniture that he had purchased back from an antique market. In 1907, Avondo gave the Castle to the Italian government; it was given to the Aosta Valley in 1948.

Chapel of Issogne Castle, Issogne
Chapel of Issogne Castle, Issogne (source)

Featured image: wikimedia

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