Representing a clearly visible symbol of power, San Vigilio Castle has been the residence of Bergamo’s numerous rulers for centuries. It is located 496 meters above the sea level, on top of the hill that gives it its name, overlooking the Città Alta: that’s why it used to have a strategic role in case of attacks. The circle plan of the building resembles a star, featuring the four towers called Castagneta, Belvedere, Del Ponte and San Vigilio. Its basements are very tortuous: a tunnel (accessible in part) was also found, connecting the castle directly to the northern side of the hills fortification, inside the San Marco Fortress.
The first news about a fortification on the Hill dates back to the 6th century AD, even if we can’t rule out the presence some previous Roman buildings. In 889, the future king of Italy Arnolfo di Carinzia decided to conquer it, sending away the religious community inhabiting it since the VI Century, which had built a small fortress called Castello della Cappella (Chapel’s Castle), dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene.The structure thus became a strategic military post, to the extent that in 1166 Bergamo Town Council decided to build a bigger castle. Thanks to the work of Milan’s Duchy in the XIV Century and mostly of the Republic of Venice in The XV century, San Vigilio Castle underwent further enlargements and reinforcements. Many changes were carried out, including the four fortified towers provided with casemates and embrasures connected one another by a defensive wall and a protection moat.
During the XVI century the castle endured numerous sieges by the French and the Spanish. Therefore, a massive defensive wall was built, while the central medieval tower was demolished in order to let more garrisons get in; besides, the castled was equipped with the soldiers’ accommodations and the castellan’s house.
In the end of the XIX century, the castle begun to be seen as touristic attraction: the entire historical complex was purchased by the Soregaroli family to open a restaurant. It was a kind of premonition, as today the San Vigilio hill, with its two fancy restaurants, is considered one of the best places to have a romantic dinner. The San Vigilio funicular, established in 1912 to connect the hill to Sant’Alessandro Gate, also enhances the charming atmosphere
Later, the castle was bought by Bergamo’s Municipality and opened to the public in 1962, while the funicular (closed since 1976) was reactivated in 1991.
Currently the secret passage linking the San Marco Fortress with the castle can be visited, thanks to the activity of a speleological group called “Le Nottole”, which arranges guided tours on request.References:
First record of Kastelholma (or Kastelholm) castle is from the year 1388 in the contract of Queen Margaret I of Denmark, where a large portion of the inheritance of Bo Jonsson Grip was given to the queen. The heyday of the castle was in the 15th and 16th centuries when it was administrated by Danish and Swedish kings and stewards of the realms. Kastelhoma was expanded and enhanced several times.
In the end of 16th century castle was owned by the previous queen Catherine Jagellon (Stenbock), an enemy of the King of Sweden Eric XIV. King Eric conquered Kastelholma in 1599 and all defending officers were taken to Turku and executed. The castle was damaged under the siege and it took 30 years to renovate it.
In 1634 Åland was joined with the County of Åbo and Björneborg and Kastelholma lost its administrative status.