Todi Castle is located in the town of Todi in the region of Umbria. The castle is also known as Capecchio and is located on top of a hill 10 miles from the town of Todi, close to Terni. The castle was originally built in the year 1100 AD as a watch tower, and over the centuries it evolved into a full sized castle.
History of Todi Castle
Todi Castle was constructed to protect the southern boundary of the territory of Julia Colony. The watch tower had originally been named as Torre d'Orlando and was built in a very strategic position so that it could look over the entire area of River Tiber, Arnata River and Via Amerina which linked Lazio to Todi: in short quite a large portion of the Umbria region. This function of the tower continued well into the Middle Ages.
Julia colony was granted to the Pope in the year 1275 and it then became the Diocese of Todi and later the municipality of Todi. Several additional towers were built from the 10th to the 13th century and the original tower was incorporated into a fort named Todi Castle. There were three towers in the corners and a large bastion wall to protect the wide territory. Todi flourished in the 13th century and its population grew quickly as well.
The municipality wanted total control of the area, so more than 5000 men were dedicated to build a large fortification system which included dozens of towers and fortresses, city walls and fortified historic towns. Todi Castle was quite important during the wars between Gibellines and Guelphs in the 13th century. The fortress was totally self sufficient and there were no windows at all. Several small openings were made in the structure for the positioning of bows and arrows, which can be seen even today.
The food for the animals and the soldiers were stored in very large quantities within the castle and the rain water was collected for drinking. The soldiers lived in the towers and the animals were kept in the open areas. There were a few secret passages under the walls of the castle which were found during the various renovation projects. These were the routes through which the soldiers could escape in case the castle had to be relinquished.
Todi Castle was important not just from the military point of view but also because of its geographic location. The castle was the key point for all the Northern European pilgrims that used to travel to Rome and soon enough the area became quite wealthy due to commerce and trade. In the year 1348 the Black Plague struck and later in the mid 14th century the municipality of Todi collapsed.
In the following years, Todi Castle continued to stand amidst a desolate territory with many abandoned villages, since the plague made the population quite thin. The castle too was abandoned by the warriors and soldiers and the castle was then used by the wanderers. In the 15th century, after several years of neglect, the castle was been turned into a monastery. A roof was constructed in the courtyard and the space was transformed into a church dedicated to Saints Julietta and Quiricus. Today, the remains of the altar, sacristy, the vaulted ceiling and the capitol can be seen.
Later, in the 17th century, the monastery was also abandoned and then the castle became the object of dispute among several local lords. In the end, the Landi family of Todi gained ownership of the castle. However, even then the castle remained abandoned for three hundred years. During those years the castle was sacked by hordes of barbarians, and occassionally occupied by bandits.
In the 18th century, the castle was finally acquired by the Paprini family who were the most important landowners in the area of Moruzze and Todi.
Todi Castle Today
The castle was bought by Ambassador Giuseppe Santoro in the year 1974 and then the restoration work began in the year 1975. Fortunately, the exterior walls were intact even after all the centuries. Even Torre d'Orlando, which was the oldest part of the castle was also perfectly preserved. Only the interior part of the castle had to be restored.
Several artists, craftsmen, designers. and architects were brought in to work on the castle. These artists knew about the ancient building techniques for creating the high walls and arches, the vaulted ceilings. Over the years, with their hard work, the Todi Castle was brought back to its original magnificence.
In the year 1980, the Todi Castle was declared a national monument and since then it has appeared in several magazines. Today the Todi Castle is one of the best preserved castles from the medieval age in the area, and speaks of the history of the Umbria region in Italy. The restoration work itself took as long as ten years.
The name of the castle was changed several times over the centuries. It was known as Capecchio, Cassa Treia and Casa Arsiccia at various times. According to many legends, there are still ghosts of medieval soldiers which haunt the castle.
According to another legend, the Landi family wanted to sell the castle in the 16th century when Lucrezia, Gerolamo Landi's wife died of plague. She was buried in the castle, in its chapel.
According to the locals, the ghost of Lucrezia still wanders through the rooms of the castle on many occasions. Todi Castle has always been an important monument in the region ever since it was built, and now the stories and legends attached to it only add to its fascination for many tourists who visit the region.
Edited and updated by Francesca Bezzone