Castelseprio or Castel Seprio was the site of a Roman fort in antiquity, and a significant Lombard town in the early Middle Ages, before being destroyed and abandoned in 1287. It is today preserved as an archaeological park.

Castelseprio originated as a Roman fort that commanded an important crossroad. During the early Middle Ages, the Lombards occupied the Roman fort, turning it into a fortified citadel or small town. At one point coins were minted there - a sign of its importance. The Church of Santa Maria foris portas ('foris portas' meaning 'outside the gates' in Latin) which contains the famous frescoes, lay just outside the walls of the citadel. The early dedication of the church to Mary is an assumption; the first documented mention of a church dedicated to Mary in Castelseprio comes from the 13th century.

The whole citadel was completely destroyed by Ottone Visconti, Archbishop of Milan, after he captured it in 1287, to prevent it being used again by his rivals. Investigations into the church, which began in 1934, finally uncovered the famous Byzantinesque frescoes below later plaster in 1944.

The whole area is now an archaeological zone containing the remains of the walls and of the much larger three-aisled 5th-century Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista. There is also a baptistry of the 5th to 7th centuries dedicated to St. John the Baptist. This has two fonts, perhaps for the use of different Rites, and is octagonal with a small apse to the east. A third Church of San Paolo has a central hexagonal plan and was built between the 6th and 12th centuries. There are some ruins left from the castle. Nearby is a large tower, once used as a convent.

The fame of Castelseprio lies in the Early Medieval frescoes contained in the small Church of Santa Maria foris portas. These frescoes are of exceptional rarity and artistic significance. Hidden for centuries, the frescoes were only rediscovered in 1944. In 2011, the church - and the castrum with the Torba Tower - became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a group of seven inscribed as Longobards in Italy, Places of Power (568-774 A.D.)

When the Church of Santa Maria foris portas was investigated in 1944, it was found to contain, as well as later frescoes, a highly important and sophisticated cycle of fresco paintings showing very strong Byzantine influence. The dating of the frescoes and the origin of their painter or painters remain controversial, although the first half of the 9th century seems to be emerging as the most likely date.

References:

Comments

Your name

Website (optional)



User Reviews

Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Aarhus Old Town

The Old Town in Aarhus, Denmark (Den Gamle By), is an open-air town museum consisting of 75 historical buildings collected from 20 townships in all parts of the country. In 1914 the museum opened as the world's first open-air museum of its kind, concentrating on town culture rather than village culture, and to this day it remains one of just a few top rated Danish museums outside Copenhagen.

The museum buildings are organized into a small town of chiefly half-timbered structures originally erected between 1550 and the late 19th century in various parts of the country and later moved to Aarhus during the 20th century. In all there are some 27 rooms, chambers or kitchens, 34 workshops, 10 groceries or shops, 5 historical gardens, a post office, a customs office, a school and a theatre.

The town itself is the main attraction but most buildings are open for visitors; rooms are either decorated in the original historical style or organized into larger exhibits of which there are 5 regular with varying themes. There are several groceries, diners and workshops spread throughout the town with museum staff working in the roles of town figures i.e. merchant, blacksmith etc. adding to the illusion of a 'living' town.