The Castle

The walled-in inscription A walled-in inscription in the courtyard of the Castle tells us that its construction began in 1233, when the earlier buildings were demolished – including the nearby Franciscan monastery – to make way to the fortification wanted by Frederick II, who visited the site the following year to monitor the work progress. The castra exempta of the Adriatic Five years later, in 1239, the work was placed among the castra exempta —that is among the castles which depended directly on the King, but you will have to wait another 10 years before the final conclusion of the building that would serve to the Swabian to control the entire Adriatic coast and the inland streets to Barletta, Andria, Corato and Castel del Monte. In fact, even before its completion, the castle already stood out as one of the most important economic and cultural doors to the East. The Hangman’s Tower Built by the sea in local limestone of fine grain, the castle of Frederick II had a quadrangular plan with a central courtyard, fulcrum of the entire building, and four square towers on the edges that still keep today the original height of 30 meters above sea level. As with all the Swabian castles built on the coast, also this one provided access by sea through one of the towers. One of these was where Frederick II hung the son of the doge of Venice, Pietro Tiepolo, podestà of Milan, who was taken prisoner in the battle of Cortenova of 1237. Stratifications In its current configuration the castle of Trani looks like the result of three basic constructive moments, referable to the medieval foundation, the 15th century’s adaptation and the massive 16th century’s rehash. The original building, on the three sides towards the ground, is now incorporated by walls, which gave rise to three other courtyards on the east, south and west sides, corresponding to the space between the old and the new perimeter. The tower has clock dating back to 1848, when the castle was used as a prison. Swabian marks in the central courtyard Important traces of the Swabian period are found in the central courtyard which gave access to the halls of the upper floor: some shelves still in place (including those depicting Adam and Eve, the announcing Angel and announced Virgin, a dancing Caryatid, an eagle with open wings) show the existence of an original cross-cover of the corridor and close iconographic relationships with the decoration of the nearby cathedral. Images of religious tolerance Adam and Eve and the Annunciation is only apparently a religious theme: this is actually a depiction of the socio-political kind, which relates to the consistent Jewish presence in the city of Trani and to a high sense of impartial justice of the emperor against subjects of different beliefs, symbolically shown by a pattern inspired by the principle of Concordance of the Old and New Testaments. The Queen coming from the sea On 2nd June 1259 a maiden who was to become the bride of the King arrived in Trani by sea. She was only 17 years old and was called Elena, coming from Epirus and bringing Corfu and Durazzo as a dowry to King Manfredi, beloved son of Frederick II of Swabia. The sumptuous wedding took place in the castle, the whole city celebrated and paid great honour to the new Queen. The two monarchs spent seven years of great happiness, and had four children, Beatrice, Henry, Frederick and Enzo, but in 1266 the Queen experienced the bitterness of the imprisonment, following the murder of her husband in the fields of Benevento, in battle against the Angevins. The betrayal of the castellan Helena was abandoned by everyone around, except from Munaldo and Amundilla, a pair of Tranesi who helped her to take refuge, along with her two little boys, in the castle of Trani; here she waited for the right moment to return to her homeland and be safe. But before the wind was favourable, the castellan betrayed her turning her in to the Angevins and she found herself stranded in the same place where, years earlier, her happiness had begun. Angevin nuptials Lavish nuptials were celebrated in the castle also in Angevin age, like those of Charles with Margaret of Nevers, in 1268, and Prince Philip with Isabella Comneno, in 1271. There Siffridina, Countess of Caserta, was held captive, from 1268 until her death in 1279, because she had favoured the unfortunate descent of Corradino of Swabia and kept the names of the conspirators secret until the end. The only documented construction works in this period are some fireplaces, manufactured by the royal engineer Giovanni from Toul in the residential area of the castle. The Sacred Royal Hearing At the behest of the King of Spain Philip II of Habsburg, from 1586 to 1677, the Sacred Royal Hearing of Bari Province was based in Trani. In 1799, the noble Trani idealists were imprisoned and murdered there, and their bodies were thrown into the sea. In the 19th century the castle was used as a Provincial Central Prison until 1974. The nineteenth-century renovations From 1832 to 1844 and beyond the entire building underwent a renovation which significantly altered its physiognomy, which, adding bodies (offices, house of Director, women’s prison, isolation cells, carpentry, laundry) corrupted the harmony of the curtains and towers and altered the original space of the courtyards. An 18th-century wooden plastic model in the Museum Currently in the northeastern bastion is the Castle Museum, which, in addition to some of the most important ceramic and stone finds from excavations therein conducted, houses a wooden plastic model of the castle, built in the mid-eighteenth century by Giovanni Carafa, Duke of Noja. Sources: Copyright ©2002 Stefania Mola – Il Castello di Trani by Stefania Mola (published on La via dei canti by Angelo Lucano Larotonda

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