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Fortress of Castelnovo Sotto

The building visible today, in the old town, is in sound condition and houses the municipal offices.

Address and contacts

Piazza IV Novembre - 42024 Castelnovo di Sotto
+39 0522 485711 - Municipality

Opening times

The castle is visitable upon previous arrangement only

How to get there

See the indication to reach Castelnovo di Sotto

Historical notes

The "castle moat" or "The Moat of the Citadel" can be easily identified on an ancient map; a circular hollow whose contour formed a boundary and protected the small fort of Castelnuovo, built in 1318 by Giberto Correggio, and which now encircles the town centre. A second ditch separated the village from the fort and was used as a second line of defence. Although the fortifications date from the 1300s, an anonymous account attributes the building of a fort named "Castelnovo" to Sigifredo da Lucca in the year 897.
Dominion of Castelnovo, with the death of its lord, was inherited by Atto Canossa. The illustrious family started on a building project to better equip the fort and make it more impregnable. The Canossa sovereignty lasted until Arrigo IV stripped the countess Matilda of her power and ceded the castle and its lands to the brothers Pietro and Giberto of Corrreggio, who possessed other dominions nearby. These two feudal lords modified the castle, enlarging it and improving its appearance, and also began work on land reclamation in the area around the castle village.
The following years were punctuated by dramatic events for Castelnovo: besieged in 1305 and taken by the troops of Azzo I d'Este, lord of Ferrara, then subject to even more violent attack by the soldiers of Giberto Da Correggio. Forced to capitulate after 24 days of fighting the fort was again taken and razed to the ground.
Having re-occupied the stronghold, Giberto in 1318, ordered the building of a new castle on the old foundations. A memorial stone bears testament to this cruel era with the initials "S.I." written on a shield which is wrapped in the traditional coverings once used. This plaque, commissioned by Da Correggio to commemorate the help he received from the bishop of Parma, Obizzone I San Vitale and from his brother Pietro, in the struggle against the Lombards, can now be found at the entrance to the castle. During the 1300s the castle was several times destroyed and rebuilt owing to insistent sieges and attacks by the troops of Gonzaga. In 1345 an earthquake further damaged the fort.
The powers of the Da Correggio sovereignty were interrupted several times in the following century owing to their uncertain political allegiances during the conflicts between various sovereignties of the time.
In1479 the territory of Castelnovo was sold to Duke Ercole I, who began work on reinforcing the castle, developing the defensive apparatus and adding draw-bridges to the two main entrances. The Duke also renovated and improved the noble living quarters.
The castle remained in the hands of the Estensi family until the year 1652 when Duke Francis I gave it in fiefdom to the Gherardini family of Verona who made it their permanent residence. Their dominion of Castelnovo lasted until 1796, but was interrupted from 1707 to 1709 by the Franco-spanish forces, enemies of the Estensi, who occupied the castle and forced the feudal lords to move to San Polo.