Castello San Giorgio, Mantova

Castle of St. George in Mantua


Castle of St. George, Ducal Palace, Mantua


Castello San Giorgio is part of the Ducal Palace located in the city of Mantua, or Mantova, as it is also named. The castle can be reached by entering from the Ponte San Giorgio. It is a reddish castle and dates back to the Middle Ages, from the time of the Gonzaga family. The construction of the large castle began in the year 1395 under the directions of Bartolino from the city of Novara. It was built in order to defend the city and to establish its dominance in the territory.


Bartolino designed the castle in such a way as to raise it at the entrance of bridge for further protection. It was a point from which the entire basin of the lake could be observed. This made it a perfect place for refuge in case of an attack. The castle was designed on a square plan. There were four towers at every corner, along with drawbridges and three doors. Originally the castle was built only for defense purposes but it soon became a part of the Palazzo Ducale. Luca Fancelli from Florence designed the beautiful renaissance style portico which surrounds the castle on two sides. This portico itself is again surrounded by the northern courtyard.


Mantova, Arched alleyway


The History of Castello San Giorgio, or Castle of Saint George

The castle was built in the 14th century with a square structure and corner towers. The castle had always belonged to the well known Gonzaga family and represented their power and strength . The castle was known to be a rich treasure house of art work. Among the most beautiful rooms of the castle is the Bridal Chamber which was decorated with frescoes done by Andrea Mantegna from 1465 to 1474.


The castle was the residence for years of Isabella d'Este, the wife of Francesco Gonzaga. Isabella was a lover of literature and arts and was always found in the company of noted men like Baldassarre Castiglione, Ludovico Ariosto, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino and Andrea Mantegna. Today, the castle is a major venue for various cultural events and exhibits, and can be visited by tourists.


Piazza Castello, entrance to Castle St. George, Mantova
Ph. wikimedia/Davide Papalini


The Castle of Saint George

The castle can be entered through Piazza Castello. This part of the castle has a wide porch on all three sides. On the ground floor is a large spiral staircase which leads to the Hall of Emblems, parallel to the Hall of Frescoes. There is a large collection of centaurs and monsters in the room. The Hall of Acronyms is located on the right along with the Room of Frieze which has beautiful intertwined scrolls and leaves in gold on a blue background.


The Hall of Suns is decorated with various plant motifs. The famous Bridal Chamber used to be the destination of various visitors like Duke d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia along with many others.

The Bridal chamber is the most well known room in the castle and is located on the northeast tower which is also known as Camera Picta. This room had been decorated with frescoes by Mantegna from the year 1465 till 1474. The frescoes in the room are the only surviving works done by the artist in the city.


Inscription with Putti, Andrea Mantegna


The bridal chamber represents the solemnity of the Gonzaga court. On the wall with the chimney are the representations of the family of Marquis Ludovico gathered for a meeting and a ceremony along with Cardinal Francesco. At the center of the large ceiling there is a monochrome which depicts various Roman emperors. There is a balustrade which overlooks cherubs and girls done in peacock blue and black. The room used to be the bedroom of King Ludwig II and the precious canopy is still supported by the hooks. The frescoes in the room are precious and have been restored with great care.


Mantua and the Gonzaga Family

Mantua is a city located in the Lombardy region of Italy. During the 12th century, three artificial lakes were created, that surround the city on three sides. These lakes receive water from Mincio which descends from Lake Garda. The three lakes are Lago Inferiore, Lago di Mezzo and Lago Superiore. There had once been a fourth lake called Lake Pajolo which completed the defensive lakes but it finally dried in the 18th century.


The Gonzaga family in Mantua was famous for its love and protection of artists and men of culture. Among the artists that were sponsored by the family we can list Nicolo Sebregondi, Luca Fancelli, Domenico Fetti, Pisanello Peter Paul Rubens, Donatello, Giulio Romano, Andrea Mantegna and Leone Battista Alberti. Over the years several works of art got dispersed throughout Italy but the cultural value of the city is still considered to be outstanding. There are several monuments in the city which are known for their brilliant architecture.


The beautiful Palazzo Te was built in the year 1525 by Giulio Romano. The style of the palace is late Renaissance with elegant touches of post Raphaelian. The palace was the summer residence of Frederick II of the Gonzaga family. Today it is home to the Civic Museum which has a large collection donated by Arnoldo Mondadori, an important publisher along with Ugo Sissa, an architect working in Iraq. Sissa donated several Mesopotamian artworks to the museum.


Grotto in Palazzo Tè, Mantova
Ph. wikimedia/Klaus Graf


The Ducal Palace was the residence of the Gonzaga family. The entire structure consisted of various buildings, gardens and courtyards which were built around Palazzo del Capitano, Saint George castle, and the Magna Domus. The Saint Andrea basilica is also quite an important place to visit.

The church was built in the Renaissance style on the orders of Ludovico II Gonzaga. Work on the church began in the year 1462 as per the designs of Leon Battista Alberti. The church was built at the site of an older Benedictine monastery. The original bell tower of the monastery still remains. It took more than 328 years for the construction of the church to be completed. Several changes were done to the main design but the church is still considered to be one of the best works of Alberti.


In this article you can find more info and pictures about Mantova.


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