History of the Aragonese Castle of Reggio Calabria
The history of the castle has followed, at the same time, that of Reggio at least from the sixth century AD onwards. In Greek times and, later, in Roman times, the hilly area, where today insists what remains of the mighty castle, had to play a role of fundamental importance in the system of protection of the city.
During the sixth century AD, perhaps before the invasions of Totila (549-551 AD), it was decided to refortify the area but it was only in the Byzantine era, between the ninth and eleventh centuries (when, that is, Reggio became the capital of the Thema of Calabria), that a real kastron was created on the hill, a fortified center developed from the expansion of the original Byzantine defensive core (most likely consisting only of a tower).
In 1039 the city passed under the rule of the Normans of Robert Guiscard and, in this period, a donjon was built, in other words a tower-fortress leaning against the city walls and intended for the troops who defended Reggio.
The construction of the castle, on the other hand, probably took place in the Swabian age since its original structure (which can be reconstructed from photos and reliefs since it remained standing after the earthquake of 1908) recalls the military architecture of that time; it was, in fact, a mighty building with a square plan, with 60 m long sides and four corner towers, also square-shaped.
Some scholars, however, think that the fortification had already taken on this aspect during the 12th century. During the 13th century the castle underwent some transformations.
In the course of the repeated wars between Angevins and Aragonese it was restored in 1327 and fortified in 1381 by Queen Giovanna I..
A document from 1382 speaks of the existence of six towers along the perimeter of the castle. After the conquest of Reggio by the Aragonese (1440) the castle was also the object of the strengthening of the fortifications of the entire Kingdom of Naples wanted by Ferdinand of Aragon to create an impregnable defensive network also responding to the new military techniques, which provided for the use of gunpowder.
So, as a result of this renovation work, which lasted fifteen years, the two circular crenellated towers were added (today the only evidence of the ancient splendor of the fortification) and a moat all around the structure. Originally, the battlements (raised in height during the 1600s) were lower and, therefore, closer to the arched band below.
Each of the three arches there was a machicolation from which stones could be thrown on the enemies; the shoe base guaranteed the bounce of the stones while the rounded profile frame that delimited it prevented the rise of any enemies. On the eastern side of the structure was added a revellino, that is an advanced wedge-shaped body that ended in a tower, which served to defend the castle from the fire of long-range weapons that could be positioned on the hills and, at the same time, housed the artillery.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there was a succession of restoration works made necessary mainly by the continuous incursions of the Saracens. In 1539 Pietro da Toledo, viceroy of Francis I, increased the internal capacity of the castle, so much so that almost a thousand Reggians were taken prisoner, together with the governor, when, in 1543, the castle was conquered by the Turks of Barbarossa.
By the end of the 1500s, a new elevation of the towers was decided to make them safer and to receive more easily the signals of the coastal towers of the surrounding area. In 1712, the castle passed to Charles III of Bourbon, who adapted the interior to barracks and restored the moat periodically occupied by squatters. The progressive consolidation of the power of the Bourbons over southern Italy and the consequent end of hostilities determined the futility of further intervention with restoration and adaptation works on the fortifications of Reggio and, in particular, on the structure of the castle.
After the earthquake of 1783, the castle was used as a prison and used for a long time. Even after the insurrection of September 2, 1847 and the killing of General Pinelli, governor of the city, the conspirators were kept prisoner in the basement of the castle. On 21 August 1860 the Garibaldians seized the castle.
In the years following the unification of Italy, in 1874, the Municipality bought the castle with the aim of tearing it down and building a large square in its place. After bitter controversy, it was decided to preserve only the two towers, but the demolition did not take place due to bureaucratic delays.
Following the terrible earthquake of 1908, which severely damaged the structure, the Civil Engineers classified it as no longer usable. It was decided, in the new Master Plan, to demolish it, thus allowing the creation of the extension of the via Aschenez and leaving only the two circular towers standing. The demolition took place in 1922. Today, after a static restoration completed in 2000, the castle is used as a venue for temporary exhibitions and cultural events.
Because of the renovation work, the interior of the Aragonese Castle is temporarily not accessible to visitors.
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