The week in Gargano was designed to immerse us into the energies of ancient structures and of nature. In this blog, I will talk about one of the two buildings that we visited that reflect the history of the region and of Italy, the Castle del Monte and Monte Sant’Angelo.
Castle del Monte
Castel del Monte, located in the municipality of Andria, rises on a rocky hill dominating the surrounding countryside of the Murgia region in southern Italy near the Adriatic Sea. A unique piece of medieval architecture, it was either built, or a more ancient structure was renovated, around 1240 under the direction of Emperor Frederick II. The castle’s location, its perfect octagonal shape, as well as the mathematical and astronomical precision of its layout all reflect the broad education and cultural vision of its founder. Many scholars and locals consider the castle to be a sacred and mysterious monument. Others consider it to be a symbol of imperial strength, as it stands out against the natural backdrop of the Apulian hills surrounding it. What is certain is that the castle has some very unique features: its overall shape, to begin with, which is quite unusual. Sixteen of its rooms are shaped as trapezoids. Its floors are connected by staircases located within its towers. The center of the castle has a beautiful courtyard with eight sides, where our group toned the inner harmonics that we were taught in Damanhur. The inner sensations of these harmonies coupled with the reverberations in the courtyard was calming and proof for me that this structure was built for so much more than to be just a castle. The octagon is a symbol representing the union of the earth and the sky. Many scholars believe that Frederick might have been inspired by the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, or by the Palatine Chapel in Aachen Cathedral where he had travelled before the castle was built.
As a leader of modern humanism, the Germanic Emperor brought scholars together in his court from throughout the Mediterranean, combining Eastern and Western traditions. The castle’s unique design, an octagonal plan with octagonal towers at each angle, represents a search for perfection. Interior features reflect Eastern influences, such as the innovative hydraulic installation used by Frederick II for bathing in accord to the typical Arabic customs. The baths were not evident in our tour. There were bathrooms built inside the castle even though it was 100 years before interior bathrooms were started to be built in the rest of Europe. Some members of our group did find the bathrooms in this building, and unfortunately other tourists have tried to make use of them. There is no evidence that there were ever kitchens or quarters for servants or soldiers at this site. Therefore it was never a home or a fortress. Evidently it was created for only its resonant possibilities, perhaps more for meditation and energetic practices.
By the 18th century, the castle had been badly damaged. The interior had been stripped of its various precious sculptures, furnishings and marbles and had become a refuge for bandits and local rebels. Later on, it was also used as a prison and as a refuge during a plague that hit the region. The castle fell into disrepair and was abandoned for a very long time. At last, it was purchased by the local government in 1876, but the restoration work began in 1928.
As we walked through the rooms of this castle, the members of our group toned in various rooms on the two floors of the building, the sound moved through all of us creating in me an inner joy and calm. While I stood in fireplaces and alcoves, I experienced the flow of energies moving up into what was the chimney. It would be wonderful to spend time in these rooms practicing different harmonic toning and meditations. Throughout the building, there are beautiful floors and walls which are made of different marbles and stones. I can only imagine what might have been there in its early years. There are presently no decorations in the building and it is assumed that they were removed or stolen hundreds of years ago.