Fortress of the Verrucole by San Romano in Garfagnana (LU) - ArTeSalVa

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Fortress of the Verrucole in S.Romano (LU)

Medieval castle transformed into an Estense fortress

The fortress was built in the 11th century as the residence of the Gherardinghi family and it was transformed and enlarged in the 16th century by Marco Antonio Pasi, an architect of the Este court. It was abandoned in the 18th century. Today it is a city property.

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Fortress of the Verrucole by San Romano in Garfagnana (LU)

Medieval castle transformed into an Estense fortress

The fortress of Verrucole in Garfagnana near Lucca was built by the Gherardinghi family in the eleventh century. Placed on a rocky spur which dominates the landscape, in the sixteenth century it was transformed into a Este military garrison by the architect Marco Antonio Pasi. The complex, which gradually lost its military function, was abandoned at the end of the eighteenth century and it became a private property at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1985 the fortress was purchased by the municipality of San Romano (in Garfagnana), which began a project of restoration and enhancement.


The Verrucole fortress, an imposing fortified structure overlooking the Serchio Valley, constitutes an excellent example of a large-scale property which—afterdecades of abandonment and decay—has undergone an extensive program ofrestoration thanks to the city of Romano. The ten-year process of restoring the fortresses structure (1992-2012) has helped to uncover century-old traces ofthe building's history and, thanks to the combined work of historians and archaeologists, has enabled us to retrace the principal phases of its construction.

The architectural history of the fortress dates back to the widespread emergence of castles in Garafagnana between the 11th and 12thcenturies. According to an imperial certificate of Federico I, in 1185 the site was the property of the Gherardinga dynasty, holders of many lands in Garafagnana since the 10th Century. The Gherardinghi family began the construction of an elevated fortress to defend against attacks by the city of Lucca, which was their sworn enemy according to an alliance formed with Pisa in the 12th century. At this time, the fortified site must have already been divided into two separate peaks linked by a fold or cleft (a feature that still characterizes the layout of the fortress): on one peak stood the fortress proper, dedicated to the site's military functions; the other peak was dedicated to a domus communis, which was intended for administrative activities.

The Gherardinghi family enjoyed a long reign, although during the second half ofthe 13th century many of its lands were confiscated by the Luccan army, which was then engaged in the reacquisition of the countryside. In 1272, however, the Gherardinghi family continued to maintain their dominance of theGarafagnana region, as shown by an edict signed by all the municipalities of the Verrucole curia which contained an item dedicated to the maintenance and protection of the fortress and forbade anyone from degrading or damaging its walls. The Gherardinghi family lost their control over the Garafagnana region at the end of the 13th century, when the Verrucole fortress fell into the hands of Lucca which entrusted its management to the Guidiccioni family in 1296. Between 1328 and 1345 the fort belonged to the property of the Ghibelline leader Spinetta Malaspina. There is little information available about the fate of the building during the period stretching from the second half of the 14th century and the first half of the 15th century. During this time, the building probably entered into a phase of relative disuse until the arrival of the Este dynasty. In the 15th century, the Este family of Ferrara set its expansionistic sights on the Garafagnana region. Part of this region came under its rule in 1429 thanks to a deliberate surrender on the part of the local comminutes. Verrucole also pledged itself to Ferrara in 1446. The Este family undertook an extensive program of reclamation and restoration of the medieval fortified towns, transforming these renovated sites into a strategic network for military control.

It was Leonello d'Este who took control of the Verrucole fortress and firstunderook its restoration, which was then continued by his successors Borso d'Este and Ercole I. During this first period of Este control, the fortress was transformed into a kind of "citadel" consisting of two strongholds, one square and one circular, which were governed by two separate captains. A polygonalen closure (now known as the "Captain's garden according to a name it was given in the 18th century) was added to the medieval castle screens behind the circular stronghold, and a semi-circular tower was raised there for use as a powder magazine. Between 1489 and 1500, other restorations—including the strengthening and elevation of walls—were carried out under the supervision Niccolò Pendaglia with the assistance of Lombard workers. These restorations must have had a positive effect, as evidenced by the fortress's ability to resist an attack by papal troops in 1512. In that year Francesco della Rovere, the nephew of Pope Julius II, conquered Modena and occupied the Garafagnana, but his troops failed against the fortresses of Castelnuovo, Vallico, Trassilico, and Verrucole, allof which remained under the dominion of Lucca until the return of the Este family in 1513. As a result of this successfully resistance, Verrucole earned a reputation as an "impregnable" fortress—a reputation that was bolstered evenfurther in 1521 when Verrucole held off another papal attack, this time perpetrated by the Florentine army in the name of Pope Leo X.

Between1522 and 1525, Alfonso I d'Este named the poet Ludovico Ariosto the commissioner of Garafagnana. The poet's tenure, however, was brief and markedby periods of continual unrest due to the widespread activity of bandits.Records of the correspondence between Duke Alfonso and Ariosto do not containany descriptions of the Verrucole, although there are a few references to the work of its restructuring and consolidation. During the second half of the 16th century, Alfonso II decided to modernize the fortress at Garafagnana and sent the architect Marc'Antonio Pasi who erected the circular stronghold, designed the bastions for the southwestern and northeastern ends of the fort, demolished the rectangular stronghold, and added other structures to walls which were necessary for the garrison's equipment. The 17th century witnesses a drastic reduction in the availability historical and architectural documentation about the fortress, most likely due to the absence of significant restoration and renewal projects which would resume during the principality of Francesco III d'Este in the second half of the next century.

In 1774, the engineer Giovanni Costa was put in charge of drawing up a detailed report of the fortress in preparation for its restoration, but the affirmation of the French government led to a halt in the restoration of the structures. In1808 the fortress, which was now disarmed and in a poor state of preservation, was put up for auction but remained unsold. The government of Lucca, under the direction of Elisa Baciocchi, decided to make all the interior and exterior terrain available for rent by private entities. The Este government was restored in 1814 and the engineer Domenico Ferrari was sent to visit the fortress and evaluate its state of conservation. The serious structural problems of the building, which threatened to crumble onto the underlying municipality of San Romano, called for an immediate effort of consolidation. Once the building was structurally secured, it was abandoned and remained uninhabited until 1866 when it became the possession of the Italian state which once again made the property available for rent.

In 1986, the City of San Romano in Garfagnana decided to buy the property for 15million lire and to take charge of its restoration. The process of rebuilding and restoring the integrity of the building – begun in 1992 and ended in July of 2012 according to the plan of Gianclaudio Papasogli Tacca – now offers several opportunities for reflection on the methodological choices made during the restoration efforts as well as on the types of reuse and enhancement envisioned for the future of the structure.


Fortezza delle Verrucole

Località Verrucole - 55038 San Romano in Garfagnana (LU)

GPS coordinates: 44.178315,10.331928

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This section provides guidance on the archives that have been examined and the available archival sources gathered during the project.

  • Fortress of the Verrucole by San Romano in Garfagnana (LU)

    • Capitani assegnati alla Fortezza delle Verrucole
    • Castellani della rocca tonda e quadra della Fortezza delle Verrucole
    • Descrizione della Fortezza delle Verrucole
    • Descrizione della Garfagnana
    • Descrizione delle fortezze della Garfagnana
    • Informazioni relative alla fortezza delle Verrucole
    • Inventario della Fortezza delle Verrucole
    • La Garfagnana Illustrata (1 parte)
    • La Garfagnana Illustrata (2 parte)
    • La Garfagnana Illustrata (3 parte)
    • Lettera al Gerente di Camporgiano
    • Lettera al Ministero di Finanza
    • Lettera del Comando Generale Estense al Ministro Luigi Rangoni
    • Lettera del Comando Generale Militare al Governatore della Garfagnana
    • Lettera del Comando Generale Militare all'Economato del Ducato
    • Lettera del Commissario della Garfagnana
    • Lettera del Governatore della Provincia della Garfagnana Luigi Boschetti al Ministro di Pubblica Economia
    • Lettera del Ministero della Pubblica Economia al Generale Comandante delle Truppe reali
    • Lettera del commissario Bellencino ad Alfonso De Trottis
    • Lettera del commissario Bellencino ad Alfonso De Trottis
    • Lettera del duca Alfonso I d'Este a Ludovico Ariosto
    • Lettera del duca Alfonso I d'Este al commissario Ariosto
    • Lettera del duca Alfonso I d'Este al commissario Ariosto (1525)
    • Lettera del sindaco Contardi al delegato governativo di Castelnuovo Garfagnana
    • Lettera dell'ingegner Ferrari al duca Francesco IV d'Este
    • Lettera dell'ingegnere Costa a Francesco III d'Este
    • Lettera dell'ingegnere Costa al duca Francesco III d'Este
    • Lettera dell'ingegnere Giovanni Costa a Pietro Giardini
    • Lettera dell'ingegnere Giovanni Costa relativa ai lavori alle fortezze di Monte Alfonso e Verrucole
    • Lettera della Vicaria di Camporgiano alla duchessa di Modena e Reggio
    • Lettera di Alfonso I a Ludovico Ariosto
    • Lettera di Bastiano Montecatini al duca Alfonso II d'Este
    • Lettera di Bastiano Montecatini al duca Alfonso II d'Este
    • Lettera di Carlo Carli al general maggiore Campori
    • Lettera di Giovanni Battista Montecatini a Francesco Tombesi
    • Lettera di Giovanni Battista Montecatini a Francesco Tombesi
    • Lettera di Giovanni Costa
    • Lettera di Giovanni Costa
    • Lettera di Giovanni Costa
    • Lettera di Giovanni Costa
    • Lettera di Giovanni Costa
    • Lettera di Giovanni Costa
    • Lettera di Giovanni Costa a Ferdinando III d'Este
    • Lettera di Giovanni Costa con spese riparazione fortezze Monte Alfonso e Verrucole
    • Lettera di Giovanni Costa di accompagnamento alla tabella dei materiali e delle spese per i lavori alle fortezze
    • Lettera di Munarini a Valotti comandante generale di Castelnuovo Garfagnana
    • Lettera di Munarini al duca Francesco III d'Este
    • Lettera di Nicolò Pendagli a Ercole I d'Este
    • Lettera di Nicolò Pendagli a Ercole I d'Este
    • Lettera di Nicolò Pendagli a Ercole I d'Este
    • Lettera di Nicolò Pendagli a Ercole I d'Este
    • Lettera di Nicolò Pendagli a Ercole I d'Este
    • Lettere dell'ingegnere Giovanni Costa al Pietro Giardini, Generale Maggiore delle truppe estensi
    • Nota di spese e lavori alla Fortezza di Monte Alfonso
    • Nota sulla maniera di fortificare le cime dei monti
    • Perizia dell’ingegner Ferrari relativa alle riparazioni della fortezza delle Verrucole
    • Perizia per il restauro della Fortezza delle Verrucole
    • Relazione di Marc'Antonio Pasi sulla visita alle fortezze della Garfagnana
    • Relazione sugli ingegneri fiorentini
    • Relazione sui presidi militari della Garfagnana
    • Ricerche Storiche sulla Provincia della Garfagnana
    • Richiesta di informazioni sulle fortezze di Monte Alfonso e Verrucole
    • Trattato di Pasio Pasi sulle fortificazioni della Garfagnana
    • Trattato militare
  • Chronology

    In this section you can see a brief history of the most significant phases of construction, transformation and restoration of the buildings.


    • XI sec. The first mention of the Fortress of Verrucole, rented to the Gherardinghi family by the bishop of Lucca
    • 1271 the Gherardinghi family still holds sway over the fortress/stronghold and the territories of the Verrucole. The statute of the Verrucole parish (1271), which grants supreme power to the Gherardinghi, contains two articles in which the deterioration and act of damaging the walls of the fortress are forbidden
    • 1296 the possession and control of the fortress passes from the Gherardinghi to the Guidiccioni.
      Archeological essays from 1997-99 show how fragmented medieval structures were, which complicates their reading (?) and interpretation. The stratigraphy of numerous data has been lost.
    • 1328-1345 the Malaspina period. Spinetta Malaspina obtains from Arrigo VII the investiture of the Camporgiano Vicaria.
    • 1446 first Este period. Under the control of Leonello d’Este, the poligonal enclosure, placed behind the round tower that culminates into a semicircular tower, is added to the fortress
    • 1489 Commissioner Pendaglia plans a period of restoration and calls in master masons from Como and Lugano
    • 1522 Second Este period. The duke of Ferrara, Alfonso d’Este, nominates Ludovico Ariosto as his commissioner in Gerfagnana on February 7th 1522. Documents pertaining to the renovation and consolidation of the fortress can be found in the correspondence between the duke and Ariosto
    • 1563 architect Marc’Antonio Pasi designs the modernisation of the fortress with star-shaped battlements. The square fortress is destroyed. The round fortress is rebuilt
    • 1683 lightning hits and damages the great gunpowder tower, located south-west, in the poligonal enclosure behind the round tower
    • 1743 colonel Dini authorises restoration work on the fortress
    • 1769-1772 the fortress is rented for private use
    • 1774 the engineer of the Este family Giovanni Costa writes up a report and restoration survey of the fortress
    • 1807 engineer Ferrari, commissioned to do a survey by Elisa Baciocchi, writes up a report on the state of conservation of the fortress. The structures are out of commission, potentially operative but with roofs that need to be restored
    • 1808 the fortress is auctioned together with the one of Monte Alfonso. No one shows up at the auction. The fortress is rented to Giuseppe Bertucci of San Romano for 60 francs a year
    • 1814 engineer Ferrari writes up a new report and restoration survey
    • 1866 the State Property Office of the Kingdom of Italy sells the fortress for L. 2545.40 to Domenico and Giuseppe Vannini. From this moment on the fortress is ceded to various private entities
    • 1986 the town council of San Romano in Garfagnana decides to buy the fortress. The cost is of 15 million liras
    • 1990-2012 integrative restoration work is done to the fortress based on a project by Florentine architect Papasogli Tacca

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