Sanctuaries & Castles

La rocca di Montasola
La rocca di Montasola

The aim of this itinerary is to show that the impact of the middle-ages is still present to this day in this particular area. The route includes three cathedrals, rock-carved churches as well as the most important castles and fortresses, in an attempt to shed some light on the mysteries that surround these perfectly preserved ancient areas.

Historical Introduction:

S. Maria della lode, the seat of the Sabine diocese, has been a stabilizing element used by the papacy to influence the area surrounding the Farfa abbey since 781 and for a great deal of the middle-ages. The abbey had sheltered rural people who were fleeing to the high ground due to the barbaric invasions, allowing it to ensure its control of the area and population. It rationed out lands for people to farm, and after having provided a suitable living location with fresh water for each community, they pursued permits to build external walls. These settlements, built on pre-existing ancient roman sites in order to have rapid access to construction material, were named 'poggi'. After several barbaric invasions, the poggi became real fortresses, giving birth to the 'Castra' (fortified castles), erected on steep and rugged areas of hills. 

Starting in the 12th century, the pontiff began to extend their dominion across the territory through a progressive building of 'castra specialia'. The renovation of roman style churches such as the cathedral of S. Maria Assunta of Tarano, S. Pietro ai Muricentro of Montebuono and S. Maria Assunta in Fianello was also a crucial part of this building plan.

During the 15th and 16th century, the supervision of large parts of the area was given to noble roman families. Once the barbaric invasions had ended, together with spats between the papacy and the Roman Empire, the defensive measures began to fade, and many fortresses became summer estates.