Altamura Castle

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Castello di Altamura was formerly a prominent structure in the city of Altamura, Bari, Italy.

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Some of its remnants may still be seen inside the neighboring buildings, which were partly constructed using stones and structural components from the castle. It was situated above the present-day plaza Matteotti. An ogival arch and some stone coats of arms are located in a warehouse. Several other relics can be located in the 19th-century buildings nearby.

The castle was most likely constructed prior to King Frederick II’s foundation of Altamura (1243), and it served as the home of the feudal lord who oversaw the neighborhood’s collection of villages. Following the establishment of the city, the villages were later relocated within it (1243). Insignia of Norman rulers were reportedly found next to the windows of the castle’s church, according to Domenico Santoro (1688), who said that these relics are evidence that the fortress was erected earlier. The Altamura family, who are Sparano da Bari’s descendants, lived in the castle for a considerable amount of time. Giovanni Antonio Orsini Del Balzo made it his home of choice before he was assassinated there in 1463.

It was used as a jail as well. It is particularly widely known for the captivity of prince Otto IV, the spouse of queen Joanna I of Naples, claims Cesare Orlandi. Orlandi claims that Corrado Corradino was also housed there.

Giovanni Pipino di Altamura, a rebel against the monarch who proclaimed himself “king of Apulia,” was also hung from the battlements of Altamura Castle in December 1357 while perched on a female donkey and with a paper crown. His body was torn into four pieces, which were subsequently displayed as a warning against disobedience in various locations across the city of Altamura. In remembrance of this, a bas-relief depicting the “thigh of Pipino” was made and erected on top of the city walls, more specifically to the right of Porta Matera. The bas-relief was destroyed in 1648 and then rebuilt after the city walls were repaired.

After being abandoned in the late 15th century, the castle steadily began to disintegrate until, by 1642, it was “uninhabitable and evidently likely to collapse.” Although the exact date of demolition is unknown, it would make sense if it had happened in the 19th century given how frequently the castle appears in 18th-century pictures.

Part of the foundations were discovered during square construction in the 20th century. But the discovered remains were destroyed, and not even a rough sketch of the foundations was made.

Featured image: Illustration of the city of Altamura – 1770, Cesare Orlandi, wikimedia

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