Medieval castles in Lombardy

Masnago Castle

The oldest part of the Masnago castle is an 11th-century crenellated tower. The current appearance is result of a series of modifications and extensions from the Middle Ages (11th – 13th centuries) to the 18th century, is one of the most important historical buildings in Varese. The main body of the castle dates from the 15th century and gave the castle the appearance of a mansion house, as may be seen from the façad ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Varese, Italy

Baradello Castle

The Castello Baradello is a military fortification located on a 430 m high hill next to the city of Como. The castle occupies the ancient site of Comum Oppidum, the original settlement of Como, dating from the 1st millennium BC. Later it was one of the last Byzantine strongholds in the area, surrendering to the Lombards in 588. The castle was restored during the War of the Lombard League, with the help of emperor Frederi ...
Founded: 6th century AD | Location: Como, Italy

Moniga Castle

The walls which enclose the town of Moniga del Garda were built in the 10th century to face the Hungarian invasions. The castle was founded in the same period and is still in fairly good condition. Rectangular in shape (60 × 80), there is only one entrance at the centre of the eastern wall, where signs of an old drawbridge can still be seen. The crenulated city walls have four small round lookout towers on each corner. T ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Moniga del Garda, Italy

Binasco Castle

The Visconti Castle of Binasco is famed for having been the prison of Beatrice di Tenda (Duchess of Milan and wife of Filippo Maria Visconti), who was arrested and there sentenced to death for adultery in 1418. Today it is the seat of the municipality of Binasco. The castle originated from a stronghold built by the Visconti in the 14th century to take care of their land in the area. Probably between 1315 and 1319 the n ...
Founded: c. 1320 | Location: Binasco, Italy

Borromeo Castle

Borromeo Castle of Peschiera is the oldest possession of the Borromeo family in Lombardy. The family came originally from San Miniato in Tuscany. The Borromeo family became wealthy due their commercial and financial activities abroad. In 1435, Banco Filippo Borromeo & Compagni set up a branch in London. In 1432, Vitaliano Borromeo was granted to fortify Peschiera farmhouse. In the decades of the sixteenth century, t ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Peschiera Borromeo, Italy

Chignolo Po Castle

Chignolo Po Castle is a beautiful eighteenth-century patrician residence, museum of art and customs, called 'the Versailles of Lombardy'. It contains important and precious testimonies of the lavish world of Lombard and Venetian nobility. The oldest part of the castle, born as a fortress on a hill, is the great Tower, from which a long stretch of the Po (Cuneulus super Padum). It is believed that it was built ...
Founded: 740 AD | Location: Chignolo Po, Italy

Montesegale Castle

The Castello di Montesegaleis a rural hilltop medieval fortress. It was originally built in the 14th century but over the next centuries was destroyed and rebuilt. An earlier 11th-century tower may have existed at the site. Documents from 1164 indicate that Emperor Federico Barbarossa conceded a castle or fortress at Montesegale to Pavia. The property was owned by the Count Gambarana by 1311, who became the lord of Mont ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Montesegale, Italy

Oramala Castle

Oramala Castle was built in the 11th century by the Malaspina ancestors and remained in family ownership, albeit with various interruptions, for many centuries. Around 1200, in its greatest splendor, it was a prestigious cultural center housing Provençal troubadours. The castle was refortified in 1474 against the firearms. Malaspina family owned it until the 18th century, but after that it started to decay. The restorat ...
Founded: c. 1029 | Location: Val di Nizza, Italy

Pandino Castle

The Castle of the Visconti in Pandino is a Gothic-style castle located in the center of the town of Pandino. In 1355, Bernabò Visconti, Lord of Milan commissioned a castle at the site in part to have access to the then wooded surrounding hunting preserves. The castle is a quadrangle with corner towers and an internal courtyard with a hemming ground-floor portico with stout brick columns with peaked arches, and a second f ...
Founded: 1355 | Location: Pandino, Italy

Bereguardo Castle

Bereguardo Castle, also called the Castello Visconteo of Bereguardo, was built in the first half of the 14th century, commissioned by Luchino Visconti to present a defense to the western borders of the Milan. It was also used as a winter residence and hunting lodge by Galeazzo II Visconti. By the 15th century some refurbishment was pursued by Filippo Maria Visconti, who also constructed the Naviglio di Bereguardo, a can ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Bereguardo, Italy

San Colombano Castle

San Colombano Castle originates probably from the 6th century AD, but if was mentioned first time in the 10th century. The current castle was built by Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor (Federico Barbarossa). During his second visit to Italy, he destroyed the existing castle, but decided to build a new one in 1164. The next reconstruction began in 1370. Later it has been conquered and rebuilt several times.
Founded: 1164 | Location: San Colombano al Lambro, Italy

Voghera Castle

Voghera Castle got its current appearance by the Visconti family in 1335–1372 and contains frescoes attributed to Bramantino. The history of castle however dates back to the 10th century.  The northern wing was restored as a residential palace in the 19th century and the moat was filled. Today is is partially restored.
Founded: 1335–1372 | Location: Voghera, Italy

Scaldasole Castle

The original Scaldasole Castle was built in the 10th-12th centuries by Campeggi family. In 1334-1404 it was owned by Folperti family, who enlarged the castle yard. Since the late 18th century it has been owned by the Carlasco family.
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Scaldasole, Italy

Gambolò Castle

Gambolò Castle was built around the year 1000 to defend the local people. It was damaged badly in the wars of 12th and 13th centuries. The current appearance dates from the 15th and 16th centuries, when it was altered into a new residence.
Founded: c. 1000 AD | Location: Gambolò, Italy

Polpenazze Castle

Built to defend against Hungarian invasions in the 10th century, Polpenazze castle was destroyed by the Visconti family at the beginning of the 15th century and reconstructed by Polpenazze in 1426. To allow the construction of the new parish church it was necessary to knock down the southern part and transform one of the towers on the walls into a bell tower. Today only the entrance to the medieval castle remains.
Founded: 1426 | Location: Polpenazze del Garda, Italy

Massino Visconti Castle

The Visconti Castle of Massino is located on the Vergante hills in the municipality of Massino Visconti. Since the 12th century it has been a possession and one of the preferred residences of the Visconti of Milan. At that time it was frequented by the family ancestor of the lords and dukes of Milan. Afterwards its property was transferred to other collateral branches of the lineage, from the initial Visconti di Massino t ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Massino Visconti, Italy

Drugolo Castle

The Drugolo castle is located in the village with same name along the road that leads from Padenghe to Bedizzole in the morainic hills. Its construction is dated to the 10th century, perhaps by the Lombards. It has a square plan with two corner towers and is positioned on a wall that raises it considerably, has a drawbridge and Ghibelline battlements; towards the end of the 14th century the perimeter walls were rebuilt. ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Drugolo, Italy

Castel d'Ario Castle

Castel d'Ario Castle was a strategic element of a defensive system into the Mantuan territory, together with Castelbelforte and Villimpenta Castles, placed on the borderline with Veneto. Castel D'Ario Castle represents one of the main medieval fenced-in castles with a pentagonal shape. Five towers are visible, included that one at the entrance, where people can still see the location where there was a portcullis and the ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Castel D'ario, Italy

Cassino Scanasio Castle

The Visconti Castle of Crenna is linked to the fame of Lodrisio Visconti, who raised against and then reconciled with the members of the family of his cousin Matteo Visconti, Lord of Milan. In the 14th century, the castle underwent expansion and destruction according to the alternative fortunes of Lodrisio. The Visconti Castle is located on the top of the hill overlooking the Arno valley, open on the opposite side to the ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Gallarate, Italy

Grumello Castle

Grumello Castle was built in the 13th century to a steep slope. It had two separate buildings, joined by a wall which has almost completely lost. The castle was destroyed in 1512.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Montagna in Valtellina, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.