Bramafam Castle

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Bramafam Castle, commonly called Bramafam Tower (French: tour de Bramafam) and rarely the castle of the Viscounti of Aosta, is located in Aosta, at the corner of Via Bramafam and Viale Carducci, along the Roman-era city wall.

Related article: the Roman Theatre in Aosta, Italy

The term Bramafam comes from the Aosta Valley patois word “bramé la fam,” and means “to cry out for hunger”-various explanations have been given by popular culture to this name. One legend has it that, for jealousy, the wife of a member of the Challant family was imprisoned there and left to die of starvation. According to another common hypothesis, due to a severe famine or on various occasions of misery, the population would gather in front of the tower (home of the powerful) asking for food, thus giving the tower its name.

The ruins of the present castle probably date from around the second half of the 13th century, but the presence of a tower on the site is earlier. Originally there was a tower there whose presence is attested in some documents from 1212 – 1214: it was called the Beatrice tower (tour Béatrix), after the name that the porta principalis dextera also assumed when Beatrice of Geneva wished to marry Gotofredo I of Challant in 1223. The seat of the viscountcy of Aosta, the castle was refitted as a castle in medieval times at the behest of the noble Challant family.

In the hands of the Challants, who had control over the entire southwestern wall, the castle of Bramafam was sacked by James of Quart in 1253. In 1295 it was ceded by Ebalo I of Challant to Count Amadeus V of Savoy, on the cession of the Viscontate and in exchange for the fief of Monjovet. However, the Challant family was still left with some rights to the castle of Bramafam, as they rented its ruins in the 18th century.

tour de bramafam Aoste
Tour de bramafam Aoste (source)

The building changed many owners over the centuries and was often disputed among the various families in the area.

It consists of a large parallelepiped building, which was once used as a dwelling, and the adjacent cylindrical tower, which stood on the rampart of the “main right gate” (porta principalis dextera) of the Roman city wall. In some places at the base of the tower the original Roman wall is still visible, while on the southern side the medieval-era escarpment is clearly legible. The tower is completed by Guelph battlements and has some narrow loopholes.

The main building exhibits a series of mullioned windows on the northern side, the workmanship of which is reminiscent of the mullioned windows of Ussel Castle. The building reveals the presence of two entrances: on the western side, the main entrance opens with an arched doorway and was once accompanied by a drawbridge, while a second entrance opened on the eastern side.

A special feature of Bramafam Castle was the water cistern, leaning against the south side of the main building and not buried as in other castles in the Valley. Tower and building have both been in ruins for centuries.

Bramafam Castle, according to Bruno Orlandoni, bears clear signs of a tradition of architectural design and technique that would derive from the International Gothic style: in particular, he finds a “golden-type proportioning” in medieval times, that is, not the actual use of the golden section, but rather a reference proportion very close to it.

Featured image source: wikimedia


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