THE CASTLE THROUGH THE AGES
The Castle of Belgioioso is a national monument located in the town of Belgioioso, 12 km east of Pavia.
This historic monument now offers a stunning setting for public and private events, including weddings and company parties.
It is believed to have been the initiative of Galeazzo II, who had it built on the extensive landholdings of the Visconti family in the second half of the 14th century.
The name “Zoioso” (“gioioso”:joyous) was given to the castle for the beauty of its setting. Duke Gian Galeazzo II stayed there often: indeed, the estate became so dear to him that with a letter dated 22 December 1393, he banned hunting of deer and all other game on Visconti lands all the way to Bereguardo-Vigevano and Abbiategrasso.
E LA SUA STORIA DA RACCONTARE.
It is said that the manor was destroyed in 1412 and then rebuilt after the killing of Gian Maria Visconti, son of Gian Galeazzo and Caterina Barnabò. In 1431 Filippo Maria conceded the “castrum” to Alberico da Barbiano.
Later the name of the town, which was then the location of a rather large vicarage, was added to the family’s name, who thus became the Barbiano di Belgioioso.
The counts of Barbiano: the long-standing family of the counts of Cunio and Barbiano (cited in Canto XIV of Dante’s Purgatorio) gained renown and power in Romagna starting in the 11th century.
The most famous family member was certainly Alberico the Great (Alberico da Barbiano). Fighting under John Hawkwood for Pope Gregory XI, he took part in the Cesena bloodbath in 1377. Later, rich and powerful, he formed his own company of 800 lancers known as the Compagnia di San Giorgio. He then joined forces with Barnabò Visconti in Lombardy.
THE SPANISH DOMINION.
The life of the nobility under Spanish dominion in the 1600s was characterized by luxury, dissolution and violence
and the dukes of Belgioioso were also caught up in the bleak winds of the times. Furthermore, the terrible plague of 1630 brought untold suffering upon the territory and its people.
18th and 19th centuries: in the 1700s the castle regained a festive and lively life under the reign of another Prince Alberico.
This century witnessed significant rebuilding and expansion of the castle.
Don Antonio Barbiano had a magnificent gate built and embellished most of the palace, including the vast gardens and conservatories.
In 1769, Don Antonio Barbiano was named Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and of Belgioioso.
A MAN OF TALENT AND A LOVER OF ART.
Antonio’s son Alberico XII was a man of talent and a lover of art.
He had work done under the supervision of the architect Leopoldo Pollack, drained the local swamplands and instituted schools. He was devoted to the noble court without becoming enslaved to it. He opposed the French Revolution and the new regime.
He spent the final years of his life in relative solitude, enjoying the rare company of Giuseppe Parini and Ugo Foscolo.
His first-born son took the title of prince and the Castle of San Colombano; the cadet branch inherited the holdings at Belgioioso and the title of count.
THE CASTLE NOW.
In 1978 a private group purchased much of the castle and the entire neoclassical gardens. The initial investments were focused on the recovery of the areas that best valorized the monument and allowed it to be opened to the public.
To facilitate the project, in 1985 a convention was drawn up between the owners and the cultural association Centro d’Arte e Cultura Castello di Belgioioso. In March 1992, the Prefecture of Pavia issued the final certificate of authorization for public entertainment.
Within a few years, having recognized the national value of various cultural initiatives organized at the castle, the association, supported by the Region of Lombardy in concert with the Province of Pavia, created the Ente Fiera dei Castelli di Belgioioso e Sartirana.
The Ente Fiera now boasts thirty years of experience in the organization of exhibitions and art events, drawing in more than 600 exhibitors and over 80,000 visitors each year.
THE CASTLE TOMORROW.
Having completed the restoration of the baroque/neoclassical façade on the west wing of the castle, which provides guests access to the exhibition spaces and events hosted therein, planned work will focus on the neoclassical garden and the grand gate, restoring them to their original splendour while also preparing them to host the erudite conversations and parties of the 21st century.