Ground floor, La Rocca Fortress, Medieval village of Turin

The fortress surrounded by palisades walls and fortifications. It is accessed from Viale Virgilio through a tower-gate with a drawbridge, from Viale Enrico Millo at the embarkation point for the boat from the staircase of the Rivoli gate and also from Viale Enrico Millo from the driveway near the entrance of the Ex- San Giorgio restaurant.

On the ground floor of La Rocca, there is the entrance, the atrium, the patio, the place for the soldiers destined to house the mercenaries, the kitchens and the dining room.

Entrance room in the fortress, the atrium has access defended by a heavy wooden door covered outside with iron and by a gate operated by a winch on the upper floor. It is controlled by the soldiers in the men’s room of arms through two slits in the back wall, and by the guardians in the room above through a trap door open on the vault. A wooden portal fortified by nails, amplified in majesty by a wide splay in stone with an acute arch, leads to the internal courtyard: it is copied from the Verres castle, like the loopholes at the bottom of the room.

Highlights works

Royal Foundry of Turin, 1883
Bronze, iron, cast brass, wood, 70x89x162x8 cm
Spangarda is one of the first pieces of artillery operating with gunpowder. It has a short barrel, which facilitates maneuvering, and a small caliber; to shoot, it must be placed on stands blocked at the rear. At the end of the fifteenth century, firearms, at first not very effective and safe, reached a high technological level which allowed them to excel in the fighting of the following century. The pushers in the fortress reproduce a 15th century original from Vercelli which, in 1883, was placed in the courtyard of the Military Arsenal of Turin. They were made on commission from the Ministry of War, exhibitor at the Italian General Exhibition of 1884.

Madonna with child
Giuseppe Rollini, 1884
Fresco with tempera repaintings
The breastfeeding Madonna welcomes those who enter the castle. The image is a copy of a fresco from the second decade of the 15th century in the baronial antechamber of the castle of La Manta, near Saluzzo. The star frame is borrowed from another sacred image of the same castle, the Crucifixion and Saints, painted in a niche of the baronial hall.

The internal courtyard of the fortress reproduces that of the castle of Fénis. It has a trapezoidal plan, dominated by a steep stone staircase with semicircular steps. The balconies of the first and second floors overlook it, with wooden balustrades and frescoed walls. Only the counter-façade wall differs from the model: it is decorated with painted coats of arms, representing the main noble families of fifteenth-century Piedmont: Savoy, Challant, Saluzzo Manta, Monferrato, San Martino. The courtyard is the real fulcrum of the castle, on which all reception or private rooms open; from the side stairs you go down to the prisons.

Highlights works

The philosophers of antiquity
Francesco Chiapasco, circa 1950
Tempers with plaster
The series of twenty-five characters depicts philosophers and wise men of antiquity, including Aristotle, Boethius, Anselm, Plato, Solomon. Each of them carries a proverb or a moral sentence written in old French on a scroll. They reproduce the philosophers painted in the courtyard of the castle of Fénis by the hand of Giacomo Jaquerio’s collaborators, around 1415-1420. The quatrains attributed to the various characters are not extracted from their works, but come from collections of sentences and proverbs that are preserved in numerous examples of manuscripts of the XIV – XV century in the libraries of France. In 1884, Giuseppe Rollini painted the fresco in the Rocca, which was damaged during the Second World War and therefore repainted.

St. George and the dragon
Francesco Chiapasco, circa 1950
Dry painting on plaster
The Golden Legend written by Jacopo da Varagine, bishop of Genoa, in the second half of the thirteenth century narrates that San Giorgio, a Roman soldier, saved Princess Silene from the sacrifice to the dragon for which it was intended. In chivalric culture, he became a symbol of the struggle of good against evil, of Christianity against the infidels. The painting on the staircase reproduces the scene painted in the same position in the courtyard of the castle of Fénis by artists of Jaquerian training, around 1415-1420. In 1884 the copy in the Rocca was painted in fresco by Giuseppe Rollini, in charge with Alessandro Vacca of all the pictorial decoration of the Borgo, but had to be redone following the war damages suffered by the castle.

Dining room
The dining room, the most sumptuous environment of the castle, through a wooden compass that protects from the cold outside. On the elevation of the carved sideboards, fine pottery, embossed plates, figured aquamarines show the wealth of the lord to his guests. The coffered ceiling has panels painted with busts of gentlemen and women, animals, fruits, drôleries. Above runs a frieze with white rabbits and flowers, interrupted by the portrait of King Arduino. These decorations were copied from a hall in the castle of Strambino (Ivrea), now in ruins. The tables are trestles, to be easily dismantled and transported; the tablecloths are in white linen with blue decorations.

The dishes left by the diners are not numerous, since it is customary in the Middle Ages to use trays of food already cut using the same dishes in more than one guest. At the back of the room are the musicians who cheer the banquets at the castle, housed on a stage. This is masked by a fake tapestry with a tournament scene designed by Federico Pastoris inspired by the miniatures of the Roy Modus novel, a 14th century manuscript that belonged to the Dukes of Savoy. The cloth was painted in 1884 by Alessandro Vacca.

Highlights works

Narvalo tooth
Franco Ferrero, 1996
Painted resin, 195×5.5 cm
The narwhal tooth reproduces the specimen preserved in the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences of Turin and replaces the original one exhibited in 1884. In the Middle Ages, the tooth of the narwhal, a yellowish-colored cetacean with dark spots, he was identified with the horn of the unicorn, an imaginative animal with a horse’s body with a long sharp protuberance on the forehead. To this horn, of the highest quality, was attributed the virtue of an antidote against poisons and diseases and was therefore placed in the dining rooms of the lords.

Plate with lion
GL Fratelli Chiotti company, 1884
Engobed, graffitied, painted copper and ferrous ceramic, glazed Diameter, 24 cm
The plate reproduces a walled basin on the west side of the bell tower of San Giovanni di Avigliana (Turin), from the second half of the 14th century. In the cable there is a lion placed in profile preceded by a small tree and, on the brim, a double zigzag edge. The oriental inspiration is sensitive: iconographic comparisons are found in Sicilian ceramics, as in a Tunisian plate from San Zeno di Pisa, from the beginning of the 11th century. To wall ceramic basins on church bell towers for decorative purposes was widespread in many Italian regions between the 11th and 14th centuries. The corpus the basins of the church of San Giovanni, together with those of the church of Santa Maria di Avigliana and the preceptory of Sant’Antonio di Ranverso in Buttigliera Alta (Turin), constituted the main model for the realization of the pottery exhibited in the Rocca in 1884. copies of the Aviglianese basins were made by the brothers Giuseppe and Luigi Chiotti, owners in Turin of a company specialized in the trade and decoration of ceramics and crystals.

Cutlery basket
Giuseppe Brisighelli, 1884
Embossed, chiseled, silvered, gilded and enamelled copper, 78x65x23.5 cm
Accessory of the gentleman’s table, it holds the cutlery, the glass and all that is of its exclusive use locked, to avoid the risk of poisoning. Protection, but also ornament, is in precious metal, sometimes enriched with gems and refined in the details of embossing and chisel. The spacecraft in the Rocca was made to a design by the engraver Alberto Maso Gilli: it depicts a Savoy boat, with their banner on the main tree and the coats of arms of the allied families hanging on the sides.

Three-branched candlestick
Luigi Brun. 1884
Wrought iron 32×17.5 cm
The table candlestick has a complex and ornate structure, with lily motifs to decorate the candle holder arms. These can rise or fall by turning on the screw stem, which ends in the shape of a flame.

Luigi Bosco, 1883
Carved and varnished wood, 295x177x61 cm
Sideboard with two doors, with canopy step and back, carved with intertwining arches of Gothic style. The sideboard is mobile in apparatus in the late medieval castle, useful for containing objects for the table and above all for displaying the most precious ones leaning against the back. The doors are closed by locks with decorative metal plates, perforated on a red cloth background.

Carved and varnished wood. 250×81.5×3.5 cm
The use of medieval lords to frequently move their residence leads to preferring small and easily transportable furnishings. The tables are often made up of simple boards on trestles and the search for refinement is concentrated in the decoration of the front of the stand, in this case with a triangular sail carved with perforated rosettes.

Candle holder arms
Wrought and painted, iron, 70x70x1.3 cm
The arm, made in a bracket, is decorated with a refined game of arches with lily terminations; the candle is placed on an iron strut in the center of the plate, with a clover cut profile. The room is illuminated by four of these arms, fixed on the longitudinal walls, in the light of which, during the banquets, that of numerous candlesticks scattered on the tables is added.

Lion-shaped aquamanile
Bertino & Occelli company, 1884
Brass, 30x10x29 cm
The aquamarine is a kind of jug used in the Middle Ages to pour water to wash your hands. The artifact in the dining room reproduces an example of the first half of the thirteenth century manufactured in Lower Saxony, preserved in the Civic Museum of Ancient Art in Turin: it has the shape of a lion, with a canine muzzle and a handle with a wolf’s head and tail cloverleaf. Artifacts of this type, depicting human or animal forms, were produced between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries mainly in an area between East Flanders (Dinant) and Northern Germany. Particularly elegant and precious, they were often displayed on the sideboards for decorative purposes.

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The castle kitchen provides meals for a large number of people: the gentlemen and their guests, but also the soldiers and servants. Very large, it is divided into two parts: the first, where you cook for the servants, serves as a pantry, with the game stick, the barrels of salted meat, the forms of cheese, the stia for poultry. In the second, separated by a wooden gate, cooking for the gentlemen, with large skewers in the fireplaces, refined pottery, spices and rare foods. Between the two areas there is a well, where you can directly draw water for washing and cooking and for the service of the whole castle. The environment, covered by high cross vaults, is copied from the fifteenth-century kitchens of the castle of Issogne, of the lords of Challant.

Highlights works

Eusebio Gilli, 1884
Wrought and embossed copper, wrought and painted iron, golden brass, 160x52x60 cm
The use of handwashing was common in medieval houses, where there was no running water. In the simpler versions, they consisted of basin and jug. In this particularly refined artefact, the water is contained in a castle-shaped vase, with corner turrets and guard walkways. The conical roofs of the towers can be opened to fill the container; the water comes out of a tap in front of the portal, operated by a golden handle in the shape of an arm. The copper basin to collect the water rests on a wrought iron tripod. The artifact reproduces an original of the fifteenth century, preserved in the Cavassa house in Saluzzo (Cuneo).

Pair of firedogs
Carlo Bruno, 1884
Wrought and painted, iron, 100x36x73 cm
The wings are used to support the logs of wood placed in the fireplace; used in pairs, they are equipped with a ring on the upper part of the stem to be able to hook and move them even when they are red-hot by the fire. The kitchen wings, not as ornate as those intended for gentlemen’s rooms, are instead equipped with hooks on the stem, for hanging utensils – ladles, spoons, fire springs -, placing skewers or rods on which to hang out to dry clothes and clothing.

Copper, brass, wrought iron, 38×74 cm
The large cauldron is used to cook food for the castle’s many servants and soldiers. It is hung on a wooden structure which, by turning on hinges, allows it to be removed from the fire and to adjust its height on the hearth.

Big room of the men of arms
It is the place of residence of the guard soldiers. The room, copied from the Verres castle, is a long room covered by a barrel vault, with a beaten floor, heated by two large fireplaces at the ends. The soldiers’ beds, simple planks with straw and rustic blankets, are on one side, on the other planks and rough benches where the armed men eat, play, clean their weapons. The armor, helmets, drums and various weapons, from swords, to falcons, to crossbows, are placed on wooden racks.

Highlights works

Armor part
Royal Foundry of Turin, 1883
Steel, leather, brass, 81x50x31 cm
The armor was made by the Royal Foundry of Turin on the design of the painter Alberto Maso Gilli, member of the commission responsible for the construction of the fortress. All the weapons and armor for the Rocca were made in 1884 by the Arsenale Foundry on the orders of the Ministry of War, which was exhibitor and who, at the end of the Exhibition, donated them to the City.

Royal Foundry of Turin, 1883
Steel, painted wood, brass, 255.5×34 cm.
The falcione is a weapon of peasant origin, derived from the grafting on a rod of the plow blade. It entered military use from the thirteenth century to arrive, in the sixteenth, to assume the role of parade weapon, enriching itself with decorations.

Two-handed broadsword
Royal Foundry of Turin, 1883
Steel, painted wood, rope, 176.5×27 cm
Long and heavy sword with two-edged blade, to be gripped with both hands to vibrate strokes in any direction. This type of weapon is handled by chosen soldiers, of tall stature, who in combat advance in front of the infantry with the task of disrupting the spades of the opponents. It reproduces a German-made sword of 1520-30, of the National Artillery Museum of Turin.

Wood, straw, woolen fabric, 97x334x219 cm
The soldiers guarding the castle have Spartan beds: they are seated raised on trestles, with planks to support the straw which acts as padding and warms. The men sleep side by side, in three, four per bed. To protect themselves from the cold they have blankets in raw wool or with colored stripes.

The fortress
It constitutes the focal point, high compared to the Borgo route. It is the fortified stately home, with sumptuous rooms full of furniture, furnishings, fabrics, to show the uses of life of the fifteenth century. The armor, the weapons, the pastimes left in the men’s room of arms, the dining room, the kitchen, offer a truly “throbbing and speaking” idea of a 15th century Savoy castle. Beyond the throne room, where the Prodi and the Heroines parade, the bedroom is striking for the large canopy with the embroidered curtains; the chapel closes the path.

The Turin Exhibition proposed to offer an artistic-architectural section, the idea of a pavilion that resumed architectural styles from different eras and regions of Italy was definitively abandoned, in favor of a project that was based on a single century (the fifteenth century) and a single cultural territory (the Aosta Valley and Piedmont).

Thus began the preliminary research for the construction of the medieval village, consisting of a village and a turreted castle. Product of invention as a whole, every architectural, decorative and furnishing element of the Borgo is reproduced with philological precision from original models of the XV century, traceable at the time in Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta, detected and personally studied by the members of the Commission. The immense work of finding and reproducing the models proceeded at an accelerated pace.

on 12 December 1882 the first stone of the Rocca (the castle) was laid, on 6 June 1883 the first stone of the village was laid, on April 27, 1884 the Borgo was inaugurated in the presence of the sovereigns of Italy, Umberto and Margherita di Savoia. The fortress could be visited inside and its fully furnished rooms reproduced a stately home of the fifteenth century.

The construction of the village and the fortress is inspired by numerous castles in Piedmont and the Aosta Valley. The courtyard of the fortress is a faithful copy of the Fénis castle. The pomegranate fountain is copied from the Issogne castle and the village church from the Avigliana church. The line of defense is that of the Verrès castle. The dining room is inspired by that of the Strambino castle, the baronial anteroom and the large fresco room are like in the Manta castle, and the wedding one is modeled on the type of the Challant castle, with the mystical motto ” FERT ” standing out in the blue of the room.

Medieval village and fortress of Turin
Turin’s Borgo Medievale, or medieval village, was opened in 1884 to mark the occasion of the Italian General Exhibition. It offers a reconstruction of late medieval buildings and decorations carried out on the basis of strict philological criteria. A number of intellectuals, historians, artists and technicians took part in the project which was coordinated by the architect Alfredo D’Andrade.

The designers drew inspiration from over 40 sites and retraced the artistic and architectural features of 15th-century buildings throughout Piedmont and the Aosta Valley, some of which have now disappeared. Located in the Parco del Valentino, a large park running along the banks of the Po, the Borgo Medievale is unquestionably a popular attraction at all times of year. The village includes streets, squares, fountains, fortifications, decorations and frescoes, real houses and artisans’ workshops, where visitors can watch metal and paper being worked and buy artefacts of various kinds.

The Rocca or fortress is the highpoint of the tour through the village. It is a fortified aristocratic residence whose rooms are richly decorated with furniture, accessories and fabrics that reflect the lifestyle of the nobility in 15th-century Piedmont. A more recent addition, since 1998, are the medieval gardens featuring plants that would have been grown at the time, as well as local botanical species. The plants were identified through extensive bibliographical and iconographic research and are now cared for using organic methods.

The Borgo Medievale has become a very special visitor attraction and museum that responds to a number of requirements: research, popular history, entertainment, tourist attraction. Moreover, a range of events is offered that reflect these different visitor categories.