Monselice town is known of an imposing architectural complex called Castello Cini, which incorporates several diverse types of building. From the 6th to the 16th centuries the castle has changed from a luxurious residence, to defensive tower to become a Venetian villa.The Castle is made up, in fact, of four main nucleuses: the most ancient part is the Roman house (Casa Romanica, 11th century) which together with the Castelletto (12th century) form the first dwelling area.
During the course of the 13th century the Torre Ezzeliniana, an imposing defensive building ordered by Ezzelino III da Romano, was built detached from the main structure. Its inside is characterized by monumental 'tower' fireplaces, unique in Italy for their form and functionality, ordered by the Paduan Lords of Da Carrara in the 14th century.
In 1405, after the birth of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, the complex in Monselice was acquired by the aristocratic Venetian family Marcello, who undertook the construction of Ca' Marcello, a connecting building between the pre-existing structures. The Marcello family then enlarged the central rooms of the Torre Ezzeliniana to form a summer residence, used uninterruptedly until the beginning of the 19th century.
The Venetian nobles gentrified the complex by constructing the elegant Library (16th century) on the esplanade in front of the Tower; by restructuring the Venetian Courtyard (17th century) and adding the private family chapel during the 1700s.
The fall of the Republic of Venice, at the end of the Eighteenth century, marked the slow but progressive decline of the old Monselice castle. The ownership of the Castle passes to various local families, among them the Girardi-Cini, but this does not enhance the fortune of the complex. The final blow was given by the Italian Royal Armed Forces, which during WWI used the Castle for military purposes, abandoning it in 1919 thoroughly sacked of all of its treasures.
In 1935 the estate was inherited by the Earl Vittorio Cini, a man of great intellectual refinement. He undertook an accurate research of the furnishings (furniture, paintings, rugs, tapestries, ceramics, musical instruments and cloth materials) and weapons, recreating on the interior of the castle the medieval and renaissance atmosphere that even today welcomes visitors into residential areas and in the vast Armoury.
Since 1981 ownership of the monumental complex of the Cini Castle of Monselice has passed to the Veneto Regional Authority, becoming a regional museum jointly with the Antiquarium Longobardo and the Mastio Federciano.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).