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  • Castello di Benabbio
  • Benabbio
  • Castrum Menabbii
  • Italy
  • Tuscany
  • Province of Lucca
  • Bagni di Lucca



  • The Italian Database is the result of a collaboration between:

    MIBAC (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali - Direzione Generale per i Beni Archeologici),

    ICCD (Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione) and

    AIAC (Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica).

  • AIAC_logo logo

Summary (English)

  • The first four excavation seasons made a complete investigation of the phases of the cemetery for cholera victims (1855) surrounding the castrum church of San Michele, situated inside the defensive walls of Benabbio castle in the Val di Lima. The 44 burials investigated documented a limited and particular phase relating to the epidemic, which in August-October 1855 afflicted the town of Benabbio, causing 46 victims. The inhumations showed evidence of having been buried in haste, with numerous cases of the deceased placed face down or on their sides, and in some cases, layers of lime had been thrown both underneath and over the bodies. The castle’s curtain walls surround a part of the mountain ridge (600-620 m a.s.l.) overlooking the modern village, enclosing a narrow elongated area of 4000 m2, characterised by two rises to the north and south. The trenches in the southern part of the castle partially documented the site’s evolution, from the 11th-12th century onwards, through four main phases. A curtain wall already existed in the first half of the 12th century, which developed along the northern relief and in the area where the church would be built.

    A better documented phase began at the end of the 12th century with the construction of a new curtain wall extending across the summit and enclosing the north and south reliefs and central level area where in 1218 the church of San Michele was built. This was the period when the castle reached its maximum extension, enclosing an area of over 4000 m2. Substantial buildings stood within the curtain walls, such as the palace facing the church, or the building standing on the northern slopes of the south hill. The space to the south-west of the church was open, and, like the small space in front of the church, was used as a cemetery. A third phase, between the end of the 13th century and beginning of the 14th century, saw the partial demolishing of the castle’s defences. Only the section around the south hill was maintained and repaired, divided from the rest of the settlement by a new curtain wall. Lastly, a fourth phase began with the dismantling of the fortifications. The settlement was definitively abandoned around the mid 15th century, more than a century after the site had lost its strategic-military value.

    The second phase corresponded to a substantial aristocratic investment that remodelled the landscape of the valley with the planned construction of an imposing fortified settlement, aimed at centralizing and controlling the population. The third phase seemed to mark the end of aristocratic control and a remodelling in a military sense of a part of the castle. The excavations planned for the next years will aim to confirm or disprove the suggested developmental model and increase knowledge of the fortified settlement’s formation and early phases and of any pre-existing structures.

  • Antonio Fornaciari 


  • Gino Fornaciari - Istituto di Paleopatologia Università di Pisa
  • Giulio Ciampoltrini - Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana


  • Antonio Fornaciari - Università di Pisa, Divisione di Paleopatologia
  • Francesco Coschino - Università di Pisa. Divisione di Paleopatologia

Research Body

  • Università degli Studi di Pisa, Divisione di Paleopatologia

Funding Body

  • Comune di Bagni di Lucca
  • Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca


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