Cervinara

Castello

Castello, hidden behind Mount Pizzone, is the most elevated part of Cervinara, and also the most picturesque. It's located along the road leading to the mountains, some 400 metres away, and 100 metres in elevation below the remains of the medieval castle of Cervinara. The settlement is crossed by a river taking its name, the same that crosses Ioffredo more downhill.
Castello is, almost certainly, the area mentioned as castellum Cervinaria back in the 11th century, in other words the fortified settlement directly linked with the castle (the castrum): it may be the case that the two were built far from each other in order to keep battles away from people's dwellings.
In any case Castello, traditionally inhabited by woodcutters, with the passing of time ended up left off the main roads. For this reason it did not undergo transformations as drastic as other areas of Cervinara. The stream markedly divides it into two halves: the northern is the former fortified core, whereas the southern one, accessible through Vicolo Marro, looks more based on the grid-like plan of a casale.
Old street to Ioffredo Ioffredo is another casale of Cervinara, just downhill Castello. The older road linking the two subsurbs is this one, straight but steep and now arranged as a stairway. The new driveway is more curvy. An underpass between the houses of Castello Mural painting in the square Castello has a small square facing the main road: it is not part of the original fortified core but an artifact of the urban development along the road. This square and the opposite bank of the stream Castello are been decorated with mural paintings about the traditions of Cervinara, similarly as other suburbs of the town but more intensely. This work in particular (by Gianni Maglio?) has some artistic value. The main road, near the square Most of the housing facing the main road and the banks of the stream Castello is recent. In the background is Mount Pizzone, with the keep of the castle on the right.
Largo Donn'Aitana This is the point where the alleys of the fortified core converge. It's quite clear from the picture that this small square has been arranged on the site of come house that previously went in ruins. A similar solution has been applied in vico Marro. A tiny passage Portals along vico Corticelle The alleys of Castello are all extremely narrow. The appearance of most of them is just out of time. A gate of the fortified core Although this area has definitely been rebuilt at some later stage, it looks quite clear that it was an entrance to the fortified settlement, with that window on top of it to be used for surveillance and defence.
Houses with external staircases The staircases are not the original ones in this alley — the narrowest of Castello —, but the solution of external staircases is quite typical of medieval housing units meant to be shared by several families. Old irregular house in vicolo Marro This house faces a small yard at the bottom of the area accessed through Vicolo Marro. Its simple, robust but inaccurate appearance reveals quite clearly its ancient and popular origins. An alley in the vicolo Marro area Note the ruined house on the left. Underpass in vicolo Marro This archway, an access to popular housing, lies at the bottom of the area of Vicolo Marro.
Uphill the inhabited centre of Castello, we enter a natural landscape. While the main road flanks the southern slope of Mount Pizzone and takes to Mafariello, a mountain area uphill San Martino, a deviation on the right leads to the remains of the castle of Cervinara.
The stream Castello in spring Just uphill Castello, the mountain slope becomes steeper. The stream Castello marks one of the limits of the hill on top of which is the castle. Road to Mafariello The sides of the road leading to the mountains cannot be said to be wild. Most of the woods are of private property and either chestnut trees are grown, or their wood is exploited. Washing tub of the castle This washing tub, said to be late medieval and subsequently altered, served the castle and its area. It is located between the road leading to the castle and the stream Castello, and fed by the same springs that feed the stream. The remains of a church? Castello currently does not have a church, but the existence of more than one is documented. In particular there was one called Sant'Angelo in Castro, mentioned in 1133 and in 1390, and then gradually abandoned, that also gave its name to a nearby gate of the original fortified settlement. Although the following is only a supposition of mine, this oddly-shaped isolated wall, located within a private property between Castello and the castle, might be a relic of that church.
Some remains of housing by the castle Some authors, rather than identifying the castellum Cervinaria with the current Castello, say that the fortified core used to lie just below the castle. Whether this is a matter of confusion or not, it is true that a few metres ahead of the stairway leading to the castle there are remains of old edifices. According to what I overheard from a land owner of this area (of whom I don't know the name, but I would like to thank him), they were mostly standing until the 1950s and then started crumbling and attacked by wild greenery.
And, indeed, nobody among the ones who describe the castle of Cervinara makes any reference to this housing area, and it is only by chance that I got in this area just after it had been cleared. The portion depicted here is definitely only part of its original extent, as I spotted more ruins further downhill. Maybe this area was all part of the castrum, as opposed to the castellum that is still inhabited: most documents use these two words in a way that sounds quite distinctive.
A fortified rock by the castle This rock stands just ahead of the ruins below the castle. As there are remains of stonework on it, maybe it was part of the defensive walls.
Downhill, on the right, is Castello; further downhill some big factory plants are the ruins of an old tobacco manufacturing industry that used to operate by the town cemetery. Behind these there is the church of Divina Misericordia, with its high bell tower.
The towns visible in the background on the right half of the picture are (left to right) Rotondi, Paolisi and Airola.
Chestnut trees by the castle

Ruins of the castle

Rovine del castello

The castle (castellone for local population) of Cervinara is mentioned in the first fact we know at all about the town — written in the 12th century, but referring to the year 837. Although subject to interpretation, this suggests that it was built around the 9th century by the Langobards; and this does not surprise considering how common were invasions at that time, and that Cervinara was about to become the boundary between the principalities of Benevento and Salerno. It may also be the case that it was built on the site of some Samnite fortifications.
In the following centuries, it was devastated repeatedly. Once was probably in the 1130s, when Roger II was fighting against the count Rainulf in Valle Caudina. At some point the castle was rebuilt, but destroyed again by the troops of king Frederick II fighting against the local feudatories in the 1220s; later on, in particular under the Angevins, it was employed again. Unfortunately, probably since the mid-15th century, the castle was progressively neglected by the feudatories. In 1528 it is mentioned as being "half ruined", and in 1562 the construction of the marquises' palace more downhill started. From that moment on, the castle was completely abandoned, and architectural elements stolen from it. The remains has been reinforced only recently.
The castle lies on top of a hill, naturally isolated by the ravines around it, on a roughly flat acreage. It is built in local lime stones, according to essentially Norman-style plan. The perimeter walls — only some portions of which are still standing — enclose a roughly rectangular yard, about 75 m long and 30 m wide. Seven small towers take places along the walls.
Within the walls, the most important remains are the ones on the northern side, and consist in the remains of a moderately big two-storey building with the castle's keep in the middle. Probably, according to a common arrangement, the ground floor was inhabited by the servants and the upper floor by the feudatories, so that they had direct access to the keep in case of attack. The keep itself is a locally rare example of tower preserving most of its original elevation. The opposite side of the castle yard may have hosted some service sheds. Enzo Napolitano, I castelli della Valle Caudina, 1989

Part of the paragraph above is inspired by this book by an active local historian of the Middle Ages. In particular his book features a deep analysis of the structure of the castle.

Il castello di Cervinara [Avellino Turismo]

This shorter webpage about the castle is also a reasonably good source.

Main structures Interior of the keep The keep was arranged on 3 storeys, with groin-vaulted coverings, as it is possible to see in these picture. The main usage of the keep was during attacks to the castle, both as a shelter and as a place where to take emergency decisions. Possibly at the bottom there were accesses to secret passages.
The castle yard Almost nothing remains within the castle walls, other than the residence and the keep. Napolitano points out that the structure visible in the middle was part of a second gate that divided the castle's drawbridge from the internal yard, and made it possible for defenders of the castle to attack from above any enemies stuck behind it. Remains of the lord's residence This is one of the walls delimiting the residence building. Although very damaged, it still reveals the windows on the two storeys and the cases hosting the ceiling beams.
The keep seen from the internal rooms The keep has two fissures on its front side, whose use was probably for shooting. A perimeter tower This tower is facing the southern side of the castle, i.e. the ravine towards Mount Cornito. It has been pointed out that all these towers, built with a pentagonal plan, are probably Angevin. The side of the walls with the drawbridge The eastern side of the castle is the only accessible one: still nowadays, the castle is reached through a series of steps which lead here. As this was a vulnerable point of the fortress, it used to be protected with a ditch. The drawbridge was located on the right in this picture, where a gap in the walls can be seen.
The valley seen from the castle
Copyright 2014 Antonio De Capua