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  • Castello di Benabbio
  • Benabbio
  • Castrum Menabbii

    Credits

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    Monuments

    Periods

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    Chronology

    • 1100 AD - 1900 AD

    Season

      • 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.
      • This campaign deepened the excavation in the part of the castle opposite the façade of the church of San Michele. Phases relating to the site’s first _incastellamento_ (12th century), preceded by levels with post holes associated with hearth remains, were identified. The archaeological evidence confirmed the hypothesis that the hilltop was occupied before the construction of the stone castle, probably between the 10th and 11th centuries. The investigations on the south hill revealed evidence that further defined the _castrum_ phases, between the 12th and 15th centuries. In particular, new sections of the 12th century curtain wall, predating the quadrangular tower cistern (13th century) were exposed at the southern edge of the excavation.
      • The second excavation campaign continued work in the part of the castle in front of the facade of the church of San Michele, where phases dating to the first ‘incastellamento’ of the site were identified (10th-11th century). Traces of a hut associated with two hearths and a dump of pottery (jars and basins in a coarse ware with vacuoles) datable to the 11th century. The occupation levels associated with the hut obliterated a walled structure, partially preserved at foundation level, constituting the first evidence of the process of ‘incastellamento’.

    Bibliography

      • A. Fornaciari, 2008, Bagni di Lucca (Lu). Benabbio, località Castello. Relazione preliminare della prima campagna di scavo, in Notiziario della Soprintendenza Archeologica della Toscana 3/2007: 50-53.
      • A. Fornaciari, 2009, Indagini archeologiche al Castello di Benabbio in Val di Lima (anni 2007 e 2008), in La Rocca di Villa Basilica. Archeologia e storia. Atti del convegno di Villa Basilica 30 Novembre 2008 a cura di G. Ciampoltrini e E. Romiti, I segni dell’Auser 7, Lucca: 93-110.
      • A. Fornaciari, 2009, Bagni di Lucca (Lu). Benabbio, località Castello. Relazione preliminare della seconda campagna di scavo, in Notiziario della Soprintendenza Archeologica della Toscana 4/2008: 20-26.
      • A. Fornaciari, A. Cariboni, F. Coschino, A. Farnocchia, M. Sparavelli, 2011, Bagni di Lucca (LU). Benabbio, località Castello: relazione preliminare della terza e della quarta campagna di scavo (luglio-agosto 2009 e 2010), in Notiziario della Soprintendenza Archeologica della Toscana 6/2010.
      • A. Fornaciari, F. Coschino, 2012, Il castello di Benabbio in Val di Lima (LU): le trasformazioni insediative tra XII e XIV secolo, atti del VI Congresso Nazionale di Archeologia Medievale: 257- 264.
      • A. Fornaciari, 2008, Colera in Toscana: il nemico invisibile, Archeologia Viva n. 127, Gennaio-Febbraio; 7