Castelvecchio & Scaliger Bridge

 


The great and most spectacular medieval edifice in Verona is Castelvecchio.

It was constructed on the banks of the Adige by Cangrande II della Scala in 1354 in order to defend Verona’s people and also to have a possible escape-route northwards where his Austrian relatives lived.

If you look at it closely, the Ponte Scaligero, with its red-brick walls and soaring arches, is asymmetrical and slopes down towards the Adige’s left bank, so as to facilitate a quick “get-away” to the country-side.

The main restoration of the castle, in 1957, made by the architect Carlo Scarpa and by the director of the museum Licisco Magagnato, gave the museum its actual structure, with 29 rooms of paintings, sculptures, weapons and more, from 1300 to 1700.

 

Castelvecchio (Old Castle) is a castle in Verona, northern Italy. It is the most important military construction of the Scaliger dynasty that ruled the city in the Middle Ages.

The castle is powerful and compact in its size with very little decoration – one square compound built in red bricks, one of the most prominent examples of Gothic architecture of the age, with imposing M-shaped merlons running along the castle and bridge walls. It has seven towers, a superelevated keep (maschio) with four main buildings inside. The castle is surrounded by a ditch, now dry, which was once filled with waters from the nearby Adige.

The castle stands on the probable location of a Roman fortress outside the Roman city. Lord Cangrande II della Scala had it built along with its bridge across the Adige River as a deterrent to his powerful neighbors such as Venice, the Gonzaga and the Sforza families. Construction was carried out between 1354 and 1376 (Cangrande died in 1359). The fortified bridge was intended to allow the seigniors to escape safely northwards to the Tyrol in the event of a rebellion or a coup d’état (the Scaligeri were allies of the Holy Roman Empire) and when they eventually lost their hold on Verona, its surviving members left Italy to found a German branch of the family.

Later, during the Venetian domination, slits were added to defend it with cannons. The castle was damaged by French troops during the Napoleonic Wars (1796-7), in retaliation to the Pasque Veronesi, when the local population staged a violent anti-French revolt. Napoleon had chosen to stay in Castelvecchio on his trips to Verona, but his widespread and arbitrary requisitions of citizens’ and churches’ property, the massive draft of male workers into the French army prompted the resistance that eventually drove out the invaders.

Under the Austrians, Castelvecchio was turned into barracks. In 1923 the castle was restored, as well as in 1963-1965.



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