South side Rooms on the upper floor, La Rocca Fortress, Medieval village of Turin

La Rocca are inspired by numerous castles in Piedmont and the Aosta Valley. The second floor has the guardian’s bedroom that controlled access to the drawbridge, the anteroom and the baron’s room, the room inspired by the King of France’s castle of Issogne, the oratory, the room of the “Damigella” and the chapel.

Very large, the bedroom is a private setting, a place to stay for the castellana who entertains her with her ladies to read or embroider. It reproduces, in the ceiling painted with rosettes, in the large fireplace, in the plastic decoration of the matching doors – which lead to the oratory and the bridesmaid room -, the room called the King of France of the castle of Issogne. It has walls covered with silk upholstery with the Savoy motto and numerous furnishings: two carved chests to hold clothes and a sideboard for everyday objects, a round table and various seats. On the external wall opens the door to the latrine, masked by the tapestry, as it is found in an elegant room of the Verres castle.

Highlights works

Guglielmo Ghidini manufacture, 1884
Brocade silk, damask with metallic thread 298×54 cm
Executed by the Turin manufacture of Guglielmo Ghidini based on a design by Federico Pastoris, the fabric is divided into lozenges, designed by a knotted cord. The rhomboid meshes alternately present the Savoy symbols: the motto fert and the cross with three-lobed ends. In 1928, in bad condition, it was partially replaced by the same company Ghidini, which had kept the jacquard cartons prepared in 1884.

Carlo Arboletti, 1949
Carved wood, wrought iron, 79x159x61 cm
Presents on the sides and on the front panels carved with motifs of arches and Gothic rosettes; in one of the front mirrors bears the emblem of the Challants. It reproduces a chest of the last decade of the fifteenth century owned in 1884 by Vittorio Avondo, who made it a legacy in 1911 at the Civic Museum of Ancient Art. The object came from Sant’Orso di Aosta, many of whose wooden furnishings were commissioned by Giorgio di Challant, prior of the Collegiate from 1468 to 1509. The chests and chests are furnishings widely used in medieval residences, as multifunctional furniture, useful also for the transport and transfer of their content. In the fifteenth century they still replaced the wardrobes, also housing clothes and clothing accessories.

Canopy bed
Wooden structure: Carlo Arboletti. 1949-54. Wood carved and waxed. 306 x 205 x 236 cm
Cortine: Istituto delle Rosine, Turin, 1884. Velvet cut combined silk, linen embroidered linen, taffeta. 225 x 145 cm
Blanket: Fratelli Sandrone, Turin, 1883, Plain cut silk velvet, embroidery application in silk thread and silver and gold thread, cotton sateen, 260 x 283 cm
The canopied bed, which forms a small room with closed curtains capable of retaining heat, is a characteristic feature of castles, especially mountain ones. The wooden structure is carved with decorative motifs inspired by the stalls of the Staffarda choir, from the beginning of the 16th century, preserved in the Civic Museum of Ancient Art in Turin. It rests on a wooden platform with openable doors where linen was stored. Equipped with late medieval mattresses, sheets and pillows in linen, the bed is covered by a rich blanket bearing the coat of arms of Amedeo IX of Savoy embroidered in relief. All around, the heavy curtains are decorated with strips of linen embroidered in red silk with a pattern of populated branches of real and fantastic beings, on a model taken from the tunic of Belmonte, from the end of the 14th century, also preserved in the Civic Museum. In 2007, the textile products were restored and reported on a new silk velvet, similar to the original identified by a fragment found under the coat of arms.

Prospero Castello, 1884
Wrought and painted, iron, 188×74 cm
Composed of a tripod, basin and suspended toilet bowl, it has an elaborate design, decorated with leaves, tendrils and bunches of grapes. The hand basin is widespread furniture in medieval castles, convenient for daily dressing. The author, from Turin Prospero Castello, was the owner since 1882 of a company specialized in the artistic work of wrought iron. He was awarded at the National Expositions of Turin, in 1884 and 1911, of Palermo in 1891, and in the international one of Paris, in 1889.

It has stone walls decorated with silk veils and is covered by a cross vault with figured shelves, copied from the choir of San Giovanni di Saluzzo. The small room is dedicated to the prayers of the gentlemen, who retire there in recollection for their prayers, accompanied only by a lady or a gentleman of the room. In front of the sacred image there is a kneeler carved in parchment, on the altar rests a book of hours.

Highlights works

Agata La Spina, 2010
Manual silk-screen printed taffetas, silk fringe, 21 sheets, 180 x 66 cm
The walls of the oratory are covered by a silk curtain (velarium), tied with laces to an iron rod suspended at a height of two meters. The decoration printed in red and green reproduces the design of the dress of Queen Semiramide, depicted in the cycle of heroes and heroines painted in the baronial hall and copied from the Castello della Manta. The use of putting veils on the walls of the rooms, and especially of the places dedicated to prayer, is widely documented in the Middle Ages by images (miniatures, paintings) and inventories. Sometimes, they were imitated with just the paint on the wall, draped and moved to pretend the fabric. The museum withdrew in 2010, for reasons of good conservation, the oldest veils in storage, simultaneously making the copies on display today.

Book of hours
Bottega Fagnola, Turin, 2010
Photographic print on paper, hot stamped leather binding, 22 x 15 cm
It is a manual of prayer for lay people, composed of liturgical texts, Gospel passages, prayers. The term “book of hours” derives from the medieval practice of reading certain prayers or devotions at different times of the day. Intended for high-ranking patrons, the books of hours are adorned with figurative miniatures, including full-page miniatures, and imaginative decorative miniatures alongside the texts. Each volume collects different texts.

The heart is made up of the “Hours of the Virgin”, a series of prayers and devotional psalms to be read in honor of Our Lady at the canonical hours. A calendar with the indication of the Saints and four short Gospel readings usually begin the volume, followed by one or two prayers to the Virgin (Obsecro te and O intemerata). After the Hours of the Virgin, come the Hours of the Cross and the Hours of the Holy Spirit, short, consisting of a hymn, an antiphon and a prayer. Finally, the Penitential Psalms with the Litanies and the Office of the Dead. The artifact in the oratory reproduces the Deloche Book of Hours, a 1465 parchment manuscript figured by the Miniaturist of the Prince of Piedmont and his collaborators, owned by Palazzo Madama – Civic Museum of Ancient Art in Turin.

Rodolfo Morgari, Pietro Rosso, 1883
Tempera on panel, carved and gilded walnut wood, 90x147x8 cm
The sacred image suspended above the altar represents the Annunciation. It was painted by Rodolfo Morgari, an artist trained at the Albertina Academy in Turin. From 1858 he was “painter and restorer of the Royal Palaces” and carried out the decoration of various churches, including S. Teresa in Turin, the parish church of S. Maurizio Canavese and S. Sebastiano di Biella. The figures of the Virgin and the Angel are arranged within the valves of a diptych with a carved and gilded frame by the cabinetmaker Pietro Rosso.

Baronial Hall
The imposing hall is the place where the lord receives ambassadors and knights and exercises justice and command. It reproduces the hall of the Manta castle of the lords of Saluzzo (Cuneo): they are the motto “Leit” repeated on the painted base and in the scrolls of the ceiling. On the right wall Heroes and Heroines of antiquity are depicted, guiding the lord’s work with his own example; opposite, a legend spread in the courtly culture, that of the fountain of youth.

Highlights works

Fountain of Youth
Francesco Chiapasco, 1950-51
Painting on canvas
The fountain of youth is the miraculous source that returns youth to the elderly who dive into it. The painted scene recounts the arrival of old people from all walks of life (the kings and their courtiers, pulled by horses on a covered wagon, and the humblest on the back of a mule or pushed on a handcart), eager to bathe in the fountain. The prodigy takes place in the bathtub: the rejuvenated couples embrace each other, then go out and put on trendy clothes and start enjoying the pleasures of life again. The painting reproduces the fresco in the hall of the castle of Manta, executed around 1420 by the same master of the series of heroes and heroines. Author of the copy for the Rocca del Borgo Medievale was, in 1884, Alessandro Vacca, an artist from Turin trained at the Albertina Academy. The canvas,

Prodi and heroines
Francesco Chiapasco, circa 1950
Tempera on canvas
The life-size figures represent Prodi and Heroines of antiquity, heroic characters famous for their virtue. There are nine male and nine female figures: Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar (of pagan religion), Joshua, David and Jude Maccabeus (of Jewish faith), Arthur, Charlemagne and Goffredo di Buglione (Christians); the queens Delfile, Sinope, Hippolita, Semiramide of Babylon, Ethiopian, Lampeto, Tamari, Teuca and Pentesilea. The theme of the nine brave developed in the courtly and chivalric literature in the fourteenth century; between XIV and XV heroines were added. The figures reproduce the series of Prodi and Eroine painted in the hall of the Castello della Manta by an artist still unknown (who takes the name of “Maestro della Manta”) at the behest of the Marquis Valerano, around 1420: they illustrate the characters sung in the poemLe Chevalier Errant, composed in 1396 by Thomas III of Saluzzo, father of Valerano. The canvases of the medieval fortress were painted in 1884 by Alessandro Vacca. Destroyed by a bombing in 1943, they were replaced in 1950 with identical copies made by Professor Chiapasco.

Clotilde Cacherano d’Osasco, 1884
Cloth embroidered with wool thread, inside in suede padded with goose down, 62×62 cm
The cushion has a shape suitable for seats with armrests, with concave sides and accentuated corners to form protruding ears. The decorative motif, with four stylized lions arranged around a vase, derives from a needle-embroidered placemat on tumbler owned by the painter and collector Vittorio Avondo, then acquired by the Civic Museum of Ancient Art in Turin. On the back of the cushion, in a corner, the name of Clotilde d’Osasco is embroidered in cursive characters, one of the noblewomen who participated in the preparation of the fortress by embroidering numerous cushions.

Baronial Antisala
It is the waiting place for those who must have an audience in the throne room. The walls are painted to imitate a fabric upholstery, on two sides there are benches from the top in carved walnut, copied from fifteenth-century furniture of the Issogne castle. The entrance door is equipped with a wooden compass, carved in parchments and intertwined with Gothic arches; the fireplace bears the coat of arms of the Challants, as in the Fénis castle. The ceiling also has a Valle d’Aosta model and is divided into thick squares decorated with a star in the center. The hall, as well as that of the throne and the bedroom, was seriously damaged during a bombing in 1943: all the fixed and mobile furnishings and decorations were redone after the war reproducing the original ones.

Highlights works

Fake upholstery
Francesco Chiapasco, circa 1950
Tempera on plaster
The painted decoration reproduces sheets of a rich textured silk fabric with a red and blue background. The design, which describes the intertwined development of a branch, with thistle or pomegranate flowers within lobed palmettes, is the typical design of late medieval velvets, commonly called “griccia”. It is copied from the tapestry painted in the room of the King of France of the Issogne castle. The drafting on the walls of the antisala, carried out in 1884 by Alessandro Vacca, was lost in the subsequent collapse of a bombing in 1943: it was then repainted, with the same model, by Francesco Chiapasco, in charge of all the pictorial remakes.

Lyon, Turin, 1951
Carved wood, wrought iron, 337x163x39 cm
The compass is a faithful reproduction of the original of 1884, made by the Bosco brothers on a model of Aosta Valley carvings, destroyed by the fall of incendiary pieces on the Rocca in the summer of 1943. The compass was frequent furniture of the medieval castles, located near the external doors to avoid the dispersion of heat from the rooms heated by the fireplaces and braziers.

Trestle table
Curti company, 1951
Carved wood, 84×165.5×98 cm
The rectangular top rests on two carved trestles, with architectural pillars on the front and a refined play of fretwork roses on the side. It reproduces the table made by Carlo Arboletti for the marquis Fernando Scarampi of Villanova, exhibited in 1884 in the bedroom, in turn a copy of a fifteenth-century original preserved in the Issogne castle. This table model was very successful: Carlo Arboletti made several copies on commission (for the same castle of Issogne, for the castles of Camino and Gabiano, for the Royal Villa of Gressoney), among which also the one that remained in the Rocca after the return of the prototype to the Marquis Scarampi.

Giuseppe Guaita, 1883
Wrought iron and painted, 130×110 cm
The lumiere hanging from the ceiling, carrying candles or oil lamps, are widespread furnishings in the elegant residences of the late fifteenth century. This has three arms that reproduce dragons inspired by medieval miniatures. It was built by Giuseppe Guaita, a blacksmith originally from Trino Vercellese, who for many years led the Bottega del Ferro to the medieval village, located on the ground floor of the Pilgrims’ Hospice.

Guardian room
It is a place of control and defense: it is located above the atrium, the only entrance to the castle. From here the guardian lowers the metal shutter to defend the door through a winch. In the event of an attack, the storm drains above the entrance allow the defenders to hit the besiegers who try to break through the door; an open trap door in the floor offers a further possibility of offense against those who managed to penetrate the castle. Without furniture if not a few seats, it painted trees on the walls with noble shields placed behind a viminata: the model for this decoration was copied to the castle of Manta (Saluzzo), where it was later washed out.

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.