The castle of Strassoldo di Sopra (Upper Castle of Strassoldo) like its nearby twin castle of Strassoldo di Sotto (Lower Castle) is placed in the heart of a medieval hamlet and is surrounded by a centuries-old park and spring-water streams and rivers. It’s a so-called “water-castle” and it one of the very few in Europe still belonging to the same family that built it more than a thousand years ago: the counts of Strassoldo.
To reach the main building you have to pass the ancient “Cistigna” arch and stroll along the cobbled path of the “borgo vecchio”. On the right side you will see a row of houses called “Le case degli armigeri” and “La Vicinia”. The first was where the guards used to live and the second the administrative and judicial centre of the place in medieval times.
At the end of the path you will reach the central building of the castle, which is connected to the church of St. Nikolaus by a pretty “overpass” and was built on a tower which dates back more than a thousand years. Behind the church there are a series of buildings, once used as stables, artisans’ houses, granaries and archives. A few steps further there’s a lovely rice mill, after which you will enter into the area of the Lower Castle.
The castle still preserves ancient family furniture and paintings and the magical atmosphere of the past.
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A very ancient tradition
The place was inhabited since Palaeolithic times and Roman and Langobard findings demonstrates that it has always been inhabited. An ancient document shows that already in 564 there was a castle with two towers on the spot. The same was probably built with the ruins of the nearby Roman colony of Aquileia after its destruction by Attala, King of the Huns, a long time before the birth of the Patriarchate of Aquileia in 1077. The two castles developed a few centuries afterwards, each one around one of the original towers. The complex was damaged many times and the assaults by the troupes of the Patriarch Philip d’Alençon and those of Emperor Maximilian in 1509 and 1513 left their traces.
The Strassoldo Family
The family roots are set deep in history. More than a thousand years ago the Strassoldos were “free feudal lords” who received their power directly from the Emperors long before the birth of the Patriarchate of Aquileia in 1077 and subsequently became “counts of the Holy Roman Empire”. Even though during the centuries many different political forces fought to seize power in this territory, the earls of Strassoldo remained one of the mightiest families of this northern Italian territory.Many family members played important roles in history, among which Recinto, who took part to the crusades with Richard the Lion Heart, Artuico, one of the mightiest free feudal lords and Governor of Friuli for the Emperor Friedrich II von Hohenstaufen, Frederick, who was ambassador in Turkey and Poland for Maximilian I, Panfilo, who was ambassador for the Pope, archbishop of Ragusa and Governor of Rome, John, a general who armed his own galley and took part, with his own troupes, to the Battle of Lepanto, Rizzardo, ...
... who was captain of Gradisca and hero during the War against the Venetians (1615-1617) and Raymond, prince-archbishop of Eichstatt in Bayern and many more. In more recent times, there was Michael Strassoldo, who was viceroy of Lombardy and Veneto and then of Steiermark in the Nineteenth Century during the Austrian Empire.
The place has witnessed many important historical events. A visit paid by Emperor Fredrick IV is a demonstration of the family’s importance. In 1489 the representatives of the Republic of Venice held a meeting in the castle for the signature of the act for the construction of the nearby Fortress of Palmanova.Many important guests stayed in the castle, among which several representatives of the Austrian imperial court, like for instance, the Field Marschal Radetzky, who married Franziska Romana Strassoldo, sister of Michael Strassoldo, viceroy of Lombardo-Veneto and Steiermark in the mid of the Nineteenth Century.
Another guest who loved the place was Field Marshal Kuhn von Kuhnenfeld, Minister of War and Advisor to Emperor Franz Josef, whose daughter, Rosa, married Julius Caesar Strassoldo.
The ancient stones tell many legends. One indicates that the family starts with Rambold von Strassau, a commander of the army of the Roman general Flavius Ezius, who fought against the Huns. A more romantic one tells the story of beautiful Genève Strassoldo, who was kidnapped by Frederick of Cucagna shortly after her wedding with Odorico di Villalta and, therefore, turned into stone in order to resist to his advances. Coming back to life only when her beloved husband kissed her.
A jewel of the castle is its garden. In Strassoldo the ground is never colder than 13 Celsius degrees and this has a beneficial influence on nature and allows many exotic species to grow in the area – from old Chinese rose bushes to palm trees. Canadian maple trees bring Indian Summer colours in Friuli.
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