History & The Castle of Udine

Sunday, 5th of March, 2017

The History behind the Castle

On the first Sunday of the month many museums around Udine are free so half a dozen of us exchange students took the opportunity to wander through the castle that overlooks our town of Udine.

The first castle to stand on the hill was a gift to Patriarch Rodoald in 983AD from the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, who died later that year. At the time Udine was part of the Holy Roman Empire. The castle was used as residence of the Patriarch of Aquileia and, in 1420 when it came under the power of the Venetians, as the home of their governor.

(Some Photos of Udine)

In 1511 a revolt caused the destruction of some historical buildings in Udine and later on what was left standing was devastated by an earthquake. The restoration of the castle was overseen by many architects throughout the years and in 1566, when the interior was finally completed, it was used for prestigious events. In 1906 it was transformed into a museum. Unfortunately, a 6.5 earthquake struck Udine in 1976, causing the castle to need more restoration work. This earthquake, though it took thousands of lives, was also the start of Udine’s university. Since then they’ve rebuilt and turned many buildings, new and old, into the University. Seen below is Palazzo Toppo Wassermann, one of many university buildings in Udine.

Distractions on the way to the Museum

We planned on seeing the museum that was the castle itself, but on our way up had to take the chance to wander through the other buildings. The steep path up from the Piazza Primo Maggio (which is a beautiful park which one was a defensive lake for the castle and today has a hill which is a bunker from World War 2) leads to the Chiesa di Santa Maria di Castello (Church of Santa Maria of Castle). It is a small, old building that lets the cold sweep through.

At the top of the hill is an astounding view of Udine. You can see across all the roofs and, on clear days, to the mountains that cradle the town. Small towns can be seen nestled in the stone.

The first floor of the museum held the most interest for me. One wing held the history of battles and soldiers, including those led by Napoleon. One room was left int he century it was built in and another had a huge model of Battle of Montebello in 1859. It was part of Italy’s second War of Independence, fought with the Frankish-Piedmontese cavalry and French infantry against Austrian troops from the Royal Imperial army.

The opposite wing held ancient pottery, instruments and figurines found by archaeologists.

The second story was rather disturbing to me. Most of the carvings and paintings were religious, of sinners paying the price and angels guiding monks into death. There were a few nice scenic ones and one of a rather rowdy looking party Jesus was hosting. Also a hall with a beautifully painted ceiling.

There were also a few paintings of Udine itself, including the recogniseable Piazza Libertà which was called Piazza Del Vino in the middle ages because there was a dedicated market. Today two statues of men, covered only by a leaf each, stand there. They are what remains from one of the noble homes that fell in the revolt and following earthquake. I had been in Udine just over a month when I made this excursion and this is only part of what I have learned about the large history of such a small city.



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