April 16th , 2010 → 12:02 am @ Susan

Castello d'Aguila (Eagle's Castle) The Castello dell’Aquila, a mighty fortified stronghold adapted to residence by the Marquises Malspina , dominates Gragnola, the medieval village situated at the confluence of the streams Aulella and Lucido, and the closest village to Casa Lucia.  The castle’s origin is uncertain, but it was probably erected to control the Medieval road network that had a critical crossing point in the valley below.  Due to the strategic importance of the site – from this hill it is possible to see virtually the whole of Lunigiana – the castle has been occupied since the Liguri-Apuani and Roman eras.

However, there are no documents that clarify the exact evolution of the castle’s architecutre.  Today,  the Castello dell’Aquila is a mighty stone building that incorporates a quadrilateral keep – with four storeys (now reconstructed in timber; the original stone barrel vault ceilings were lost) and its large dimensions make it one of the largest of the Lunigiana.  There are three other angular towers, the north-west one crossed by a gate, the main access to the inner ward.  A second fine gate, that opens at a higher level is the only access to the inner ward.  In the gate passage, on the right, is the castle’s chapel, recently reconsecrated.  The inner ward is dominated by the huge keep, and on the north walls, some battlements are still visible.  The courtyard faces all the other residential and military buildings.  The Great Hall, with its still intact barrel-vault ceiling, is noteworthy.

The keep, in its embryonic version, dates back to the 13th century, but all the most important works were carried out during the 14th century, when the castle became the seat of a Marquisate: the Malaspina, Spinetta Malaspina, and Leonardo 1st above all, transformed the military stronghold into a prestigious residence.

More changes, like the building of a new outer walled curtain, dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries, in order to adapt the castle defences to the new gunpowder weapons.  Access to the castle was totally changed:  from the Outer Gate (that crosses the north-west tower) an open air way starts, running along the external walls, controlled by a rounded turret; at the end of this path a second gate opens in a newly-built rounded barbican with gun holes facing the valley and with an annexed guard barrack.  From here starts a new ‘walled’ way, a corridor, from which it was impossible to deviate, that leads to the inner gate.  The scarped reinforcements, added to a great part of the outer walls and the keep, seem to date from this period.

The decline of the Marquises Malaspine lead to the abandoning of Castello dell’Aquila.  At first there was a slow, gradual decay, then the earthquake of 1920 left the castle as a total ruin.  Fortunately, before it was finally lost, a private individual bought the ruins and restoration started in 1996 and is carried on with real passion, care, competence, and respect for the original form and building materials.  Recently reopened, the Castle has been used for romantic weddings and important parties.  On these occasions, the owners light up the castle and we at Casa Lucia are delighted to see the shimmering glow of it in the night sky – our very own Disney castle!

As an aside, the beautiful wood beamed roof of the tattoia and the poolhouse at Casa Lucia were constructed by the same artisans who restored the wooden ceilings of the castle.

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