Montagnon Castle at Montegrotto Terme

Montegrotto Terme

Montagnon Castle at Montegrotto Terme

The remains of a large settlement, in use between the seventeenth and twelfth centuries B.C. (Middle and Late Bronze Age) are located at the southern slopes of Monte Castello. The top of the hill is dominated by the so-called “Tower of Berta“, hence the popular name of the height as Berta’s Hill. The tower was built on the “Montagnon Castle “, already documented in 1100, which was in turn built on an existing structure from the Roman period.

The remains of the castle, which are currently visible on the top and along the slopes of the hill, include a walled summit, within which there are a cistern, the foundations of a large building and a second defense line connected to the access door. In the eastern tract, the perimeter wall was built on the remains of a building in squared stones, possibly of roman dating. The written sources attest that the castle already existed in 1100. It was part of a “feudum”, as recalled by a document of the Bishop of Padua dating back to 1116. The presence of a feud refers to the existence of a “curtis”, almost to suggest the “fossilization”, even in this time, of a settlement and production organization typical of the ninth and tenth centuries. A 1188 document records the emphyteusis of the castle and its dependencies by the abbot of the monastery of San Silvestro of Nonantola (Modena) to the members of the family “da Montagnon”, known since 1038. The Lords da Montagnon were representatives and guardians of the interests of the great abbey of Modena, who was interested in this area of the Venetian plain since Carolingian or Ottonian, or even Langobard times. During that period, the fort was closely linked to the village that had developed at the foot of Monte Castello. Written sources also provide some detail about the structural characteristics of the castle: in a document of 1277 the commanders of the garrison are commanded to keep continually “three men on each tower”; this indirectly suggests that there was more than one. Moreover, the castle must have had considerable resistance, if in 1237 it resisted the repeated assaults by the advanced artillery of Ezzelino Romano: it was only thanks to his political complicities that the tyrant was able to gain possession of the castle, which was released in 1256, along with Padua and other fortifications in the area. The castle of San Pietro Montagnon hill can be considered a typical example of the process of fortification in the territory of the Euganean hills. Unlike in other areas of northern Italy, the Euganean castles have never been fortified villages, but noble residences, more or less stable, which served as occasional refuge places for rural populations of the surrounding settlements. Every castle exercised its jurisdiction over a number of villages, known in medieval documents as “ville”; the jurisdiction of San Pietro Montagnon castle included the areas of the current towns of Montegrotto, Terradura, San Pelagio and Abano. At the end of the Middle Ages, the castle had to change its function and features: in the code drawn in 1433 by Giovan Francesco Capodilista and containing a repertoire of about sixty castles of the territory of Padua, the “Montagnone” (i.e. the castle of “San Pietro Montagnon”, name which used to indicate the area of the Montegrotto Terme located precisely on Monte Castello) is designated as a “fortilitium”, which means a strong simple rural house. In the period between 1675 and 1685, the site became part of the possessions of Alvise Lucadello, “reasoned ducal”, which brought together an area of over eighty fields between Monte Alto and Monte Castello with careful estate operations. The Lucadello replaced the castle with a belvedere; later the area was inherited by Daniele Dolfin (1654-1729). Today the summit of Monte Castello is dominated by the so-called “Tower of Berta”, a building which is similar to a castle but dates back to the nineteenth century.

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