The Castle

People at work In a document dating 1111, Riccardo Senescalco, son of the Norman leader Drogone, claims to have built at his own expense the castle of Gioia del Colle. Many historians, however, doubt the reliability of this source, all agreeing that the fortification restored in 1229 by Frederick II, returning from a crusade, existed in Byzantine times. Restored at the expense of locals who provided days of labor and building materials, the fortress belonged to the type of “castles built on low hill, surrounded by houses and streets”. A mutual love Frederick II loved very much the Castle of Gioia inherited from his Norman ancestors. It was here that he had stopped the first time in November 1222 to “negotiate” her marriage to Yolande of Brienne and here he used to stay while travelling between the Land of Capitanata and the Land of Otranto. The inhabitants of Gioia had always shown him full loyalty and he wanted to show his gratitude by enlarging the castle to make it his home of rest and recreation. Was Bianca Lancia unfaithful to him? The site was so pleasing that he let Bianca Lancia inhabit it, who gave birth to the Emperor’sfavourite son, Manfred. According to a legend that has been passed down from father Bonaventura da Lama and resumed by the historian Pantaleo, during the pregnancy Frederick suspected his lover of infidelity and had her locked up in a tower of the Gioia del Colle castle. The lament of the woman who cut off her breasts On the wall of the cell in which Bianca Lancia was locked up some shapes are carved which, according to legend, should represent her breasts that Bianca Lancia cut off, under the pain of such humiliation, and sent to the Emperor on a tray along with the newborn. Since that day, every night, in the Castle Tower now called Tower of the Empress you hear her plaintive wail. The last days as Empress Since this is a legend, the versions are very different. While father Bonaventura reports the woman’s suicide, others argue that in 1246, Frederick — meanwhile widower of his third wife Isabella— moved from Foggia to the castle of Gioia del Colle where he found his suffering lover. The woman asked him to legitimize the three sons born from their love, joining her with a regular marriage celebrated shortly before her death, which he did and that allowed Bianca to be an empress for a few days. Halls and courts Access to the Empress Tower was from the Harem Room where there was a ladder. To visit also the Renaissance fireplace room, lit by the beautiful three-light window and the Renaissance Hall, accessed from the primitive door of the donjon, with the harmonious vault of the fifteenth-century. Of a quadrangular plan, the four sides of the Castle face the four cardinal points. Inside, on the ground floor, crossed the majestic west entrance hall, you can enter the broad and harmonious court, overlooked by the hall of the monumental oven. The last stop of Frederick II An elegant staircase (remarkable lozenges portraying zoomorphic scenes) provides access to the rooms on the upper floor, including the fascinating Throne room, introduced by the triumphal arch and characterized by distinct Arab decorations and by a motif of facing hawks. In December 1250, the body of Frederick II stopped here, en route to Palermo from Foggia, to rest forever in a sarcophagus waiting in the Cathedral, next to his wife Constance. On the night of 28th December 1250 hundreds of torches illuminated the castle and made the Saracen knights’ armour glitter, aligned along the path from the entrance to the throne room. Triumphal welcome to the Queen of Naples With the Angevins, the castle was granted by King Charles I to the adviser Jean de Clary; come the Aragonese, the building became the family home of the Acquaviva of Aragon until 1614. Meanwhile, in 1497, the court had been the theatre of triumphal welcome to Isabella del Balzo Orsini, Queen of Naples, by the Schiavone people settled down in Gioia in the second half of the fifteenth century. Later, the castle was inhabited by the De Maris and by Maria Emanuela Caracciolo. Herod and Jesus in the Frederician castle In the 60’s some rooms of the Castle were chosen as cinematographic location by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who filmed a few scenes of the film “The Gospel according to St. Matthew”, and it became the Palace of Herod and the Temple from which Jesus banished the Pharisees. Today the eastern rooms are home to the National Archeological Museum, which collects the artifacts unearthed in the archaeological zone of Monte Sannace. Sources: La via dei canti by Angelo Lucano Larotonda