Palazzo del Gastaldo > Who was Il Gastaldo?

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The history of the Palace

In the earlier part of the Middle Ages, sometimes distinguished as the Dark Ages, the task of defending Gubbio  and its area rested with several hundred castles, a vast majority of which deployed at strategic locations along the border; inland, a small portion of these constituted a second line of defence.
The above castles, as well as all fortified buildings, came under the Jurisdiction of:

  • The City-States
  • The Feudal Lord
  • The Bishop

Among the many castles erected across the Western section of Gubbio, one  was within ecclesiastical jurisdiction: Castrum Montis Episcopi.
Owing to its strategic importance, the Bishop of Gubbio entrusted the stronghold to the city-state in the course of the wars that opposed Gubbio to Perugia (1217 and 1258).
During the 1217 war, along with the nearby castles of Agnano and Castiglione Ildebrandi, it was destroyed by Perugia’s troops. Even though the ensuing Peace Treaty prohibited their reconstruction, Gubbio’s townspeople failed to abide by this provision.
During the 1258 war, in the wake of Tiberio di Ranaldo de Vercellis’arbitration, Gubbio was sentenced to destroy the three castles it had built afresh, but, like the previous provision, it was never enforced.
The Montis Episcopi castle (now know as Montelovesco) did play a significant part in bygone days.
The walls, the palatium in the courtyard, the ruins of the tower, the stables, the storerooms  and the Church of Saint Paul, which is still served, can be seen standing.
The Court of Justice, i.e., the area within its jurisdiction, stretched across vast expanses of land
It consisted of various “Villas”, i.e., in modern-day language,  hamlets, such as:

  • Agnano, Ampugnano, Sasso Collis Casalis, Spicchi.
  • Also, the “Court” accomodated a substantial number of churches:
  • St. Johannes de Ana (sive de Colle Fresseneti),which is still standing.
  •  St. Christoforus da Saxo.
  • St. Maria de l’Isola
  • St. Maria et S. Superantii o di S. Maria de la Vitalba (also know as Pieve d’Agnano), still standing, and St. Paolo di Montis Episcopi (previously referred to).

The water supplì system encompassed the following rivers: Ana (now know as Lanna), Mosino and Fosso delle Cupe. There were also different sources: the Valle source, the Palaiola source, the Cerro source, and the more ancient Aqua Viva source.
Numerous place names have been unearthed in old documents dating back to the 11th -14th century, many of which have come down to us.
Vigne, la cupa di Cantolo, la casa de Mariano, Valpiana, Macrano, Vigna del Gnolo, Valcelle, Caselle, lama, greppa de Melello, corelli, Ghezzi. Petreccio, Montione, aquavivola, manso Seriole, plano Calvenze, silva Parasacci, piano di Gnagne, le vaglie, cay Benetello, cay Marghella, Teluchi, spognola, Viciardino, col metolo, salceto, Tavagnini, Aorneto, Avorneto, val Torda, val Tretana, Celucchio, monte Calvo, le valcelle de Capersano, Sammarino, valle Pelegrinorum, Colle Stafano, Col de Bataglia, Colle Furcarum, valle dè Morosi, Colle de Castaldo, Montegna a.k.a. the Gastaldo Valley.
Apart from the significante ascrive to some place names, such as Col de Bataglia or Colle delle Forche which are undeniably reminiscent of war-related events, or Montione, which could be, according to anthropologists, a mount dedicated to Juno, one struck me in a particular fashion: Colle de Castaldo or Montagna, also know as the Gastaldo Valley.
Not all the castle, fortified palaces, towers and fortalices established in Gubbio (about 220), documented from the 11th to the 14th century (many of which in existence and occupied during that period of time), were erected at the same time: some of them were built in ancient times, some were restructured, others still reconstructed on previous foundations.
If there is a time when the need to defend Gubbio and its widespread territory was most impelling, it is when the Italian peninsula, following the fall of the Roman Empire, was invaded by “barbarian”  tribes, and namely: the Goths (459-553) and the Lombards (568-774).
The Goths were driven out by the Byzantines, also with help from the Lombards. However, it was not along before the latter swarmed into the peninsula.
Gubbio was always an integral part of the Byzantine Empire (Esarcato, Pentapoli, the duchy of Perugia, part of Southern Tuscany, the Latium).
In the course of the Lombard occupation, which lasted 206 years, Gubbio was also invaded for short periods of time.
And Colle del Castaldo serves as a constant reminder!
The Lombard society provided for a  king as head of state; he was usually elected by a military assembly, as monarchy was not yet  hereditary.
The insignia of royalty were the spear and the shield.
The territories of the Italian peninsula under Lombard control  had been subdivided, as  Paolo Diacono asserted, into 33-36 duchies, headed by Dukes; while some were small in size, others covered vast tracks of land (Spoleto, Benevento, Trent, Friuli).
The King’s rule over the duchies had been devolved to Gastaldi or Castaldi (from the lombarb word Gast-Ald= administrator of Crown lands).
The Colle di Castaldo, within the “Court” of the Montis Episcopi castle, a place name that was handed down in notarial deeds dating back to the 14th century, testifies to the presence of a Lombard Gastaldo in Gubbio during one of the rare periods of Byzantine occupation. The ruins of a fortified manor house, which could have been the Gastaldo’s, have passed to the Renato Vaiani di Umbertide family.
With a display of great taste, and above all, with an enduring passion for ancient times, the owners have renovated this architectural structure, restoring it to its formar magnificence.


Piero Luigi Menichetti

Gubbio, 13 october 1986

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