The Visconti Castle of Massino is located on the Vergante hills in the municipality of Massino Visconti. Since the 12th century it has been a possession and one of the preferred residences of the Visconti of Milan. At that time it was frequented by the family ancestor of the lords and dukes of Milan. Afterwards its property was transferred to other collateral branches of the lineage, from the initial Visconti di Massino to the current Visconti di San Vito.
The vast view that can be seen from the site of the castle, covering the Lake Maggiore and the territory beyond it, is supposed to be the motivation of the initial interest of the Visconti of Milan, leading them to the acquisition of the Massino court from the Abbey of Saint Gall in 1134.
A first mention of a fortification goes back to the 9th century, when Massino became prerogative of Engelberga, wife of the Emperor Louis II of Italy. The settlement was then donated to the monastery of San Sisto in Piacenza, then transferred to the Abbey of Saint Gall. In 1134 Guido Visconti son of Ottone was invested by the Sangalese monks of their properties and rights in Massino. Eight years later the investiture was confirmed by King Conrad III. Since then it has always been a possession of Visconti families.
In 1823 the property of the castle was transferred from the Visconti di Massino (a Visconti cadet branch originated from Ottone, the eldest son of Guido) to the Visconti d'Aragona. In 1863 it was acquired from the Visconti of Aragon by Pietro Pallestrini, scholar, author of an industrial review of the Verbano and mayor of Massino, who restored it and then transmitted it to the Visconti di San Vito another Visconti collateral lineage. Part of the furniture and the archive of the Visconti d'Aragona were moved to the Visconti Castle of Somma Lombardo, another estate house of the Visconti di San Vito.
At the beginning of the 20th century the importance of the Visconti Castle in the local history has led the municipality of Massino to rename itself Massino Visconti. The town can be reached by the Genova Voltri-Gravellona Toce highway, Meina exit. After the first houses the castle appears in its imposing dimensions near the church of Santa Maria. Three towers remain of the castle: two of them on both sides of the southern gate, perhaps the original entrance, surmounted by the usual Biscione. At the center of the castle stands the main tower. The courtyard of the castle ends with a terrace towards the village and the Lake Maggiore. On this side stands out a loggia open for public announcements to the village.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.