The matildic territory has its specific history and nature. Castles, parish churches and ancient villages made of stone embellish a landscape where mild slopes alternates with asper views, dry ravines and volcanic rocks. Some hilly itineraries starts from Reggio Emilia and develops in an original and suggestive scenery. A mighty fortified system used to protect the feud of Countess Matilde, who governed between 11th and 12th century. These castles originally belonged to Matilde’s ancestors, who reinforced the northern border of their possesions between Taro and Reno rivers. The fortifications guaranteed safety and were a visible symbol of authority. It’s likely that the matildic castles have been built partially fortifying pre-existing structures. The fortifications lined up from west to east along different altitudes. Canossa and Rossena castles are built along an intermediate defense line, while Bianello overlooks the valley, ready to face the enemy coming from north. The matildic castles suffered distructions, first by the free Communes that fought against feudal power, then during the fights between the seigniories. Some castles have been converted into civil houses. Nevertheless the net of matildic castles is still well visible on the territory and represents a cultural and tourist heritage. The Circuit of Castles of Reggio Emilia coordinates about fifteen castles, forts and courts, regarding activities and visit times. The matildic territory is represented by many parish churches too, its religious aspect. The churches had also an assistance role and were strategically built close to the castle. The parish churches belonged to the matildic land organization and the same countess was the promoter of the building of many of them. The faithfuls offered the ‘decime’ to sustain the parishes, according to rigid rules. Until the 16th century the parish churches facades were eastwards, with rectangular plan, usually a nave, two side aisles and an apse. The sculpted capitals and big christening fonts were important decorations, as you can see in the parish churches of Toano and Paullo. The tower houses are another typical feature of our territory, especially the hills. Their high towers still characterize the old stone villages skyline (like Bergogno and Vercallo). The first tower houses date back to the late medieval age and had a defense purpose. The door was at the first floor and it was accessible through a retractable ladder. At the groundfloor there were food storage and animals stables, the first floor was the actual home and the second floor was the pigeonry. The tower house had its major diffusion between 5th and 6th century, with a square plan and a solid stone structure. During the following centuries the tower house became higher, the terracotta tiles were used with the stones and some decorations appeared. The defensive role became less important and the tower house kept the purpose of pigeonry but became a distinctive element of the family that started building other buildings around to house the increased population.

Castello di Rossena

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