The castle of S. Pio delle Camere stands half way up the south-western side of mount Gentile. The settlement was first mentioned as a villa, at the beginning of the 11th century. Presumably the fortification of the site began progressively in the Norman period (mention in the Catalogus Baronum – Catalogus Baronum, E. JAMISON, (ed.) Rome, 1972, n. 1171, p. 236).
The existence of a tower-salient predating the defensive walls and the settlement would seem to confirm the hypothesis which dates the first complex to the early Agevin or even Svevan period. The two archaeological excavations were undertaken with the aim of establishing the entity of the settlement and road layout within the enclosure, as well as establishing the actual function of the fortification as either a military garrison or permanent settlement.
In particular the excavation involved the area around the tower, where three trenches were opened, and an area inside the enclosure. The latter area comprised the first three houses starting from the tower, the space between the houses and the tower itself and the open spaces between the houses (areas 1, 2 and 3).
The identification of a foundation trench along the north-west side of the structure, formed by the leveling of the bed-rock, showed that the first courses of the sloped structure characterizing the base of the tower were in phase with the latter, and that both the sloping element and the tower were built directly on top of the limestone substratum. The chronologies identified within the stratigraphy could not be fully defined due to the absence of structures below those of the present tower, and of any fill in the robber trench. In fact, it was established that the tower was the earliest structure as it was abutted by the defensive walls.
Data relating to the spatial organisation inside the walls came from the investigation in sector III, situated up against the curtain wall south-west of the tower. Here, a wall was built to reinforce the northern curtain wall on its north-east side clearly abutting it, with later toothing to join them up on the side facing south-west towards the houses. This created a small sheltered space up against the tower which qualifies it as a procinto (courtyard for the tower) of the latter.
In the area further down the slope was a pathway, created by cutting steps into the limestone bedrock, which climbed up the rocky crag on which the structures of the curtain wall and tower rested, going around the procinto as far as the foot of the tower itself. In this point further rearranging of the pathway using stones bonded with mortar was visible. The procinto was subsequently filled by an imposing layer of dumped material comprising gravel, crumbled mortar, small to medium sized stones. Later this was covered by a mortar surface, of which a number of patches remained. Here, the intention was probably that of raising the floor level below the tower in order to facilitate access to the portalino, in a period when the castle’s function was mainly residential.
The investigation of the houses identified not only the techniques used in the construction and for the interior finishing but also defined the periods of occupation and abandonment. In the case of room 2, excavated down to the limestone substratum, it was seen that the ground floor was cut directly in the bedrock, terraced to eliminate the slope in the terrain. The floor level was thus on a levelled, smoothed and more or less horizontal terrace. This was delimited to the north-east by the rock face resulting from the cut in the steeply sloping bedrock, to the south-west by a low wall, a sort of step cut out of the limestone bank and on which the wall stood that separated this room from the next.
The area up against the tower produced materials datable to the 14th century, including fragments of archaic majolica. The houses, below were occupied for a longer period, as attested by finds of Renaissance and post-medieval materials.
- Roberta Leuzzi - Università degli Studi dell’Aquila
- Barbara Di Vincenzo
- Lorella Di Blasio
- Fabio Redi - Università degli Studi dell’Aquila, Dipartimento di Storia e Metodologie Comparate
- Università degli Studi dell’Aquila – Dipartimento di Storia e Metodologie comparate
- Ente Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga
- Università degli Studi dell’Aquila
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