Standing on a marked, rocky promontory, Ussel castle overlooks the south side of the residential area of Châtillon. Built by Ebalo II of Challant in the mid-14th century, the castle marks a change in Valdostan fortress architecture. Indeed, it is the first single body castle in Val d’Aosta, which was the last evolutionary phase of medieval castles, and marked the passage between the contemporary castle in Fénis and the rigid forms in Verrès. Having passed on numerous occasions from the Challants to the Savoys and vice versa, the castle then became a prison, until it was abandoned completely. Having bought the castle from the Passerin d’Entrèves family, heirs to the Challants, in 1983 Baron Marcel Bich donated it to the regional authority, which restored it and earmarked it as an exhibition centre.
With a large, rectangular layout, the castle is an example of good masonry that culminates in blind arcades, not present on the north side, and beautiful mullioned windows each different from the next, with floral and geometric decorations. The corners on the south side (facing the mountain) have two round towers, which were originally connected via a walkway, protected by battlements. The south side also has an entrance with an overhead machicolation. The north side, which faces Châtillon, has two four-sided towers, with a slightly projecting watchtower in between, a symbolic element of feudal power.
The monumental fireplaces remain, with large shelves placed on the same ascending line, exploiting a single flue, and traces of the stairs and floor divisions.Before restoration work began, the manor was mostly in ruins; however a precise archaeological assessment enabled identification and reintegration of the missing parts. A picturesque walkway was added along the battlement, where visitors can admire the Châtillon plain and its historic buildings.
The castle host exhibitions and it’s open only when exhibitions take place in it.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.