Even if ascribed to Fredrick II, it is actually a Norman construction that later was expanded and strengthened by the Swabian emperor, to be then completed in the Angevin age. This is highlighted by the inside alternation of styles and variegated architectonical elements. From castrum to domus solaciorum Fredrick II knew that in this place the Byzantines had built a castrum to monitor the road link between Benevento and the Bradano valley. He knew also that, before him, the Normans had expanded the construction even if without making it into a defensive structure. Downline, in time, a village had formed, and this had made it a taxable property. Therefore, in the August of 1242 he went for the first time to Lagopesole, where he organized for the castrum to be changed into a domus solaciorum. He certainly returned in 1243 and in1246 to verify the work progress. Finally, he returned in 1250 few months before his death, and the domus was not completed yet. Love and war refuge The works were carried out by his son Manfredi who stayed there many times with his wife Elena Ducas, but it was the Angevins who finished the construction of the castle and turned it into a ‘royal’ shelter and a ‘luxurious’ prison: the beauty of the Lagopesole castle, indeed, was appreciated also by Carlo I d’Angiò, who attended it for long periods, providing it with a palatine chapel, an aqueduct, horses stables, and a sort of medieval ‘fish farm’: The Angevin king instructed that about ten thousand eels were carried in specific barrels and thrown in the small lake opposite the palace. The castle first passed on to the Caracciolos and then to the Dorias, and through the centuries it was abandoned and got deteriorated. In the nineteenth century it was refuge for bandits led by Carmine Crocco, who on April 7th 1861 occupied it with 400 of his gang men. A new life from the past The fortification became a state property in 1969 and is now the Forest Service office, and since 2000 it has held the Antiquarium, made with medieval material discovered during the excavates carried out in the little courtyard. A pink-stoned parallelepiped The castle, located atop a hill in a strategic position, looks like a rectangular parallelepiped, with corner towers. The front shows, on the first floor, four double-and triple lancet windows built with local pink stone that contrasts with that of the yellow-grey curtains. Through the big decorated portal you gain access inside the “big yard” of the castle, from which you can also get in the smaller one, in the centre of which there is the well of the tank. The Emperor and Empress in Lucanian nature The most interesting part of the castle, located on the side of the great courtyard, is the one that gives access to the Angevin chapel and several residential rooms including those known as “of the Emperor” and “of the Empress”. In these halls the sculptures triumph, which, especially in the capitals and corbels, reproduce mulberry trees and oaks, grapes and figs, fluttering birds, bears and wild boars to hunt, as if they were an illustration of the beloved narrated by Frederick II in the De arte venandi cum avibus (LINK). There is no trace, however, of the deadly pitfalls debit from a local legend (LINK) – not the only one – to the perfidy of Frederick Barbarossa. The passage of salvation At the bottom of the “Hall of Armigeri” there is a door that led to an opening in the fortress. This is the so-called “emergency door” or “postern”, a small hidden entrance always open to allow messengers arrival with news – perhaps of imminent attacks -very quicly. In the castle there is also a “secret room”, so called because the entrance was hidden by a stairway that covered it. The great tower and the forest Unusual also is the presence in the center of the small courtyard of the solid square great tower, the donjon, the position of which would support the hypothesis of a pre-existing Norman age specifically for a military purpose. The medieval fort is surrounded by 23 hectares of land that make up the Anthropological and Natural State Reserve ‘Coste Castello’, established in 1972. The area includes bushy pastures, turkey oak woods, chestnut and herbaceous flowering species including the Apennine anemone, the snowdrop, the red lily and elder flowered orchid. Sources: “La via dei canti. Un itinerario di Federico II in Basilicata e Puglia”, Angelo Lucano Larotonda, 2007
The hanging lake loved by Federico Well known for its Swabian past related to the figure of Fredrick II and his son Manfredi, the castle of Lagopesole (popularly called Lagopesole) is one of the most important hamlets of Avigliano, in the municipality of Potenza. The origin of the name derives from the medieval Latin “Lacus Pensilis”, hanging lake, because of the presence of a quaternary lake in the underlying Vitalba valley, drained at the beginning of 1900. In defence of the Herculea roadBetween the VIII and X cent. it had the military function of supervising the old road layout of the Herculea road, connecting Melfi to Potenza. The town was conquered by the Saracens -who started to build the castle (LINK) – and it had a flourishing period during the Swabian and Norman dominations. In 1337 it was the site of the reconciliation between the Abbot Rinaldo di Montecassino and Pope Innocenzo II in the presence of the emperor Lotario of Saxony.
Carmine Crocco’s refuge After the Angevins, the hamlet had a period of decline. It became the feud of the Caracciolos in the 1416 and then in the 1530 of the Dorias, who kept it as licit owners until 1969. During the banditry, the village was surrounded by the gangs of Carmine Crocco and the castle became their refuge.
As many other castles even the Lagopesole one has its legends. The donkey ears The first is related to Frederick I Barbarossa, whose face stands out from the great tower of the castle. On either side of the entrance, placed 4 meters high, there are two shelves with human heads: the one on the right is the face of Beatrice, the second wife of Frederick Barbarossa, while on the left side it is represented the Emperor himself, including his crown, long hair and “donkey ears”. Symbolically these exaggerated ears should represent his power to hear everything and everyone, but the popular tradition tells of a malformation the emperor suffered from birth which forced him at old age to move to the fortress of Lagopesole to hide his very long and pointed ears hidden under long bushy hair. The barber trap Legend has it that, as Frederick Barbarossa was very ashamed of his ears, he devised a way to prevent the barbers who shaved him from revealing his secret. These were addressed in a long corridor at the end of which they inevitably fell into a trap and couldn’t go out. All the barbers were pushed to fall in the trap despite they, terrified, had sworn to keep the discovery for themselves. The secret in the wind But one day, by some fatality, a young barber managed to escape. Fredrick, impressed by the event, saved his life, but only on condition that he would not tell anything outside the castle walls. The boy, scared, kept his word, but the temptation was so strong that one day he ran away from Lagopesole reaching a secluded spot where he dug a deep hole and I shouted at the top of his voice: “Frederick Barbarossa has donkey ears “and came home with one less worry. But after a while, in the same place some reeds germinated which, moved by the wind, seemed to be uttering words revealing the secret. Even today these lands people use to sing a refrain with these verses. We do not know the final end of the barber. The ghost of the fortress Related to Frederick’s castle there is a story, even more typically legendary, about a ghost and a full moon night, when it seems to hear, near the castle, the screams and sobs of a desperate woman. Apparently this is Elena degli Angeli, the wife of Manfred of Swabia, who dressed in white and with a lamp in her hand, comes back to a place that saw her happy to search her beloved and her children lost forever. The eternal search Elena had spent her honeymoon in the fortress, and with her husband and children had lived the best moments of her short life. Then came the Angevins and her life was shocked: Manfredi was killed, the children imprisoned in Castel del Monte and Elena, imprisoned by order of Carlo d’Angiò in the same fortress, was left to die of starvation. While the ghost of Elena wanders the castle, the ghost of Manfredi wanders in the countryside below riding his white horse, with a nice green mantle, also in search of his wife and children. But the search of the couple is eternal and they seem to be destined to never meet. Source: www.prolocolagopesole.it
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On the art of hunting with birds One of the great passions of the Swabian Emperor was hunting, which he cultivated in the widest sense of the term. For Fredrick II, in fact, hunting was a spiritual exercise, regarded as a way to better get to know nature. However, he was not satisfied with the only practice of this sport, considered by him as a form of art and science: he had thirst for knowledge so he read up on birds and on hunting with birds of prey and he housed specialists and experts of falconry in his palace. Admiring Nature What he read and what he heard from these experts, expressly come from Saudi Arabia and from other places, had to be examined by him. The emperor, that is, prioritised objectivity and was one of the first Latin academic to consider this direct observation above the writers’ authority. He successfully reported a lot of information so that he was able to draw up a real essay on falconry: “De arte venandi cum avibus”, that is “On the art of hunting with birds”.It is not easy to establish with precision the birth of this composition because its elaboration was occasional and slow and the ultimate version revealed the style of another person, probably Manfredi. Perhaps the studies began before his leaving for the crusade and the consistent collection of the research material lasted not less than a decade. He got himself hawks and similar from England, Ireland, Spain, Bulgaria, Asia Minor, Egypt, India and other eastern countries to make a comparison among them.
The Emperor’s talentatore
Over 500 pictures enrich the work, an out-and-out manual on the art of hunting that includes farming, training and exploiting methods for hunting with birds of prey (especially hawks). Since it is said that Federico II was a good draftsman, it is very likely he was the maker of these very well-finished pictures, especially in the choice of the plumage colours and in the details of anatomical parts.
From the brute strength to the collaboration
The ‘De arte venandi cum avibus’, for its setting-out and for the size of its research, beat and vanished all the previous works about ornithology, gaining an international feature. Thanks to him, the Western world knew falconry conceived in the respect of birds of prey. The original manuscript (a code on parchment composed by 111 sheets), actually a copy drafted by his son Manfredi after 1285, is preserved in the Vatican library.
With Fredrick II the old idea about haunting, intended as deceit or brute strength aimed to destroy the prey, leaves enough space for an idea of practice with the cooperation of bright and trained animals. Long-wings falconry becomes the most loyal and noble form of confrontation ever existed, where the relationship between the human being and nature reaches its highest expression of harmony, with the bird of prey on the top of the pyramid, and the falconer, horses and dogs at the bottom.
Sources: “La cultura alla corte di Federico II Imperatore” by Antonino De Stefano “Federico II e la Falconeria” – Copyright ©2001 Alberto Gentile (www.stupormundi.it)