Frederick's places in Calabria

In Calabria, at the court of Emperor Frederick II Swabia

© Regione Calabria

Art and Culture

Feb 15, 2024 11:01 AM

One of the most controversial figures in mediaeval history, Emperor Frederick II of Swabia went down in history as the Stupor Mundi, for those who loved his cultural and political work, peacemaker between West and East in the era of the Crusades; but also as the Antichrist, for his Catholic detractors who, perhaps for the same reason, harshly criticised his diplomacy.

Esotericist, hunting-loving falconer, polyglot and cosmopolitan, the fact remains that the Swabian emperor par excellence profoundly marked each of the territories under his jurisdiction, founding the famous Frederician castles, which have gone down in history for their mysterious architecture.

There are splendid ones in Calabria too, to be discovered in an itinerary dedicated to Frederick's places.

In the footsteps of Frederick II in Calabria

It was 22 November 1220 when, in St Peter's Basilica in Rome, Honorius III crowned Emperor Frederick II of Swabia. Two years later, the emperor arrived in Calabria on the occasion of an important milestone for Catholicism in the region: the consecration of Cosenza Cathedral, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site symbol of peace.

From that moment on, Frederick II would be the protagonist of an intense activity in Calabria that would see both the construction ex novo and the readaptation of numerous castles, both for the defensive purpose of the territory, threatened by the Arab incursions of the time, and for personal use, as summer and hunting estates.

These are the monumental Frederician castles (Swabian castles) that still grace Calabria from north to south.

The image of the emperor with his faithful trained falcon stands out in the historic centre of Nicastro, a town in Lamezia Terme (CZ), where the Statue of Frederick II stands at the entrance to the ancient Giudecca quarter leading to the remains of the Castle of Nicastro.

Lamezia Terme
Regione Calabria

The bronze statue, the work of sculptor Maurizio Carnevali, pays homage to the man who enlarged the ancient city castle and raised Lamezia to the status of "State City".

Frederick's places not to be missed

The passage of the Stupor Mundi is witnessed throughout the region, but in some places, not by chance defined as "Frederician places", he left truly monumental traces.

These include the Frederician castles of Cosenza and its province, namely the fortresses in the municipalities of Rocca Imperiale, Amendolara, Oriolo, Roseto Capo Spulico, Cerchiara di Calabria and San Marco Argentano; in addition to these are the Castle of Crotone and those of Vibo Valentia and Nicotera (VV).

Proceeding in order, the Castle of Rocca Imperiale dominates the old town from the top of a hill overlooking the Gulf of Taranto. The Swabian Castle, with a defensive function on the coast, was designed for the manoeuvres of archers and crossbowmen who lurked behind the loopholes and battlements. Around it are a monastery and five churches, among which the Mother Church stands out.

Rocca Imperiale
Regione Calabria

The Amendolara Castle is no less impressive, as is the village, a fascinating succession of churches and noble palaces. Restored in 1239 by Frederick II of Swabia, it still houses a precious 13th-century fresco depicting a Crucifixion.

In the village of Oriolo, among The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy, the Frederician castle is the undisputed symbol of the settlement. Of remote origin, Oriolo was born as a fortress perched on a rocky spur at 450 m, to defend the population that escaped pirate raids.

The mediaeval village preserves intact the façades of the noble palaces and the majestic structure of the Swabian, then Angevin and, lastly, the Ruffo-Sanseverino Castle.

Oriolo Castello
Regione Calabria

Also not to be missed are the Castle of Roseto Capo Spulico (Castrum Petrae Roseti), a fortress at the water's edge on the promontory of Cardone, which can be visited from the outside as it has been converted into a private residence, with a trapezoidal plan and three towers; the ruins of the Feudal Castle of Cerchiara and those of San Marco Argentano.

Roseto Castello
Regione Calabria