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:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.