Last Updated on March 31, 2021 by Helga Dosa
Castello Boncompagni is the ducal castle on the beautiful Isola del Liri in Abruzzo, Italy. The palace is an ancient fortified castle full of history. It’s located close to the Isola del Liri island’s old town, where the two branches of the Liri River form the island mass. Two beautiful waterfalls, Valcatoio and the Great Falls complete the gorgeous picture, which would charm any visitor.
The Boncompagni Castle has been important to the region ever since it had been built in the 12th century. The beautiful architecture of the castle, as well as its historical importance as a fortified residence, makes Castello Boncompagni one of the most important castles in Abruzzo, Italy.
History of the Castle Boncompagni
The castle was first mentioned officially in the year 1100 by Pope Paschal II in a letter to the Bishop of Sora. Although, it is believed it dates back to the Middle Ages when a tower was standing in its place on Isola del Liri, Italy. In the letter, the castle was referred to by the name of Castellum Insulae.
The structure’s fortifications were originally built to protect the plain of Sora from invading enemies. The bulwark was likely owned directly by the diocese who built Castello Boncompagni for defense purposes.
When Della Rovere was appointed the Duke of Sora the castle became part of his ducal assets. The Duke used the Boncompagni Castle as a headquarters for all the local political activities and as a residence.
Della Rovere is famous for raising a force of resistance fighters in 1496, with the local clergy’s support, to take on the Kingdom of Naples.
In later years the rights of the castle moved to the Boncompagni family. By this time, the castle was transformed into a full-on military structure by the Sforzas in the 17th century. Over the years several beautiful biblical frescoes and many bas reliefs were commissioned for the interior of the castle. Then, the beautiful exterior gardens were also created. These gardens are often considered to be the castle’s best feature.
The Boncompagni Family in Italy
The first-ever document referring to the family having a noble title is from 1133. The document refers to Rodolfo Boncompagni’s appointment as the Lord of Assisi by Lothair II in the year 1133. In the early 14th century various Boncompagni nobles from Umbria moved to Bologna. Then, the family grew in their political power and economic prestige.
Ugo Boncompagni was appointed as Pope in 1572, taking the name of Gregory XIII. The castle was purchased by Ugo from the Duke of Sora, Francesco Maria II della Rovere. Right after this, Ugo gave the castle to Giacomo Boncompagni, his son, and the castle’s namesake.
The Castle of Boncompagni
Castle Boncompagni is also known as Castle Viscogliosi. The castle is located at the top of the Great Falls waterfall. It was originally built as a fortification to defend the valley of the River Liri. In later years, when the Boncompagni family acquired the fortress toward the end of the 16th century, the castle was converted into a residential fortress and many amenities were added.
The castle was built on a spur of rock that causes the Liri River to split into two separate branches. The Castello Boncompagni has been extended and modified several times. Over the centuries, different frescoes and stucco decorations were added at different times, especially by the Boncompagni family. Many of the frescoes depict scenes out of the Old Testament and many make references to the ducal family.
From a historical point of view, the room known as the Sala degli Stucchi is especially important. Here, there are eighteen different bas reliefs that depict the domains that made up the Boncompagni family’s duchy. The bas relief specifies that Aquino, Arce, and Sora were part of their lands. Another interesting 17th-century fresco within the castle is known as the Penance.
The castle’s church was built in the time of Antonio Boncompagni over the apse of an older church that had been dedicated to San Lorenzo and which had then been located quite close to the castle.
The original church was demolished in the early 17th century after being damaged due to an earthquake on Isola del Liri. Inside that church, there are beautiful frescoes that depict the Madonna and various scenes from the lives of Saint John the Baptist and Alexandria’s Saint Catherine.
The Waterfalls at Boncompagni, Isola del Liri, Italy
The castle is also famous for the two beautiful waterfalls that surround the fortification. The River Liri starts its journey in the region of Abruzzo, Italy. It flows through the valley, past many picturesque villages, through the slopes of the Simbruini Mountains.
When it reaches the location of the island it forms a waterfall that falls from a height of 28 meters. The waterfall is practically vertical and is located close to the historic center of the island’s town, which is quite unusual. There is also a gradual waterfall that cascades down gracefully, water tumbling from rock to rock. This waterfall is known as Valcatoio and it is much different from the violent cascades of the Great Falls.
Castel Boncompagni, along with its beautiful gardens and two waterfalls, is quite an important tourist attraction on the Isola del Liri! It’s definitely not a site that should be missed by those who visit Abruzzo, Italy.