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Rocca Calascio..."Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e dei Monti della Laga - S. Maria della Pietà

In a wonderful position just below the renowned citadel called La Rocca, one of the most interesting in Italy for its structure , often used as the scenery for epic movies, and for the charming, peculiar octagonal church of St. Maria della Pietà (XVII century), on a solitary plateau, the village is today nearly abandoned by the local people, but an obliged stop for history-motivated tourists. An important defensive centre in the early Middle Ages, came under Leonello De Acclozemora in the second half of the XIV century, was later given to Ferdinand, king of Naples. At that time a slow decline of the citadel began, and the villagers started to build houses away from the fortress, on the site where the village called Calascio now rises. Painter Teofilo Patini lived for a long time there.

In Abruzzo we find all kinds of castles and towers, both inside urban settlements and hamlets, and in remote, strategic positions. Castles and towers are a typical feature of the territory in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In the 12th and 13th centuries the repeated invasions caused the building of castles almost everywhere, both for military and civil defense.

The castle was the home of the feudal Lord, and the main protection of the inhabited settlements around. A "rocca", instead was a fortress on a high rock, only inhabited by soldiers, and was the last resort. The tower had a sighting and communication function, the simplest fortified structure, usually round or square in shape. In the 13th and 14th century a castle was a building with high walls, with a high tower inside and nearby the mansion of the feudal Lord, and in the courtyard repairs and huts for the population when the need arose. In the Renaissance the castles became huge and rich, with bastions and cannon holes, and a wooden bridge over the surrounding ditch.

At 1460 m. above sea level, the unique Rocca di Calascio (13th and 15th centuries) was in the Barony of Carapelle, a vassal of the Celano Countdom. At first only an isolated tower was built, with a side of 10 metres. Then a walled courtyard was added with four cylindrical towers at the corners, placed on oblique basements. The borough that rose around the rocca in 1463 was also surrounded by walls and towers by order of Count of Celano Antonio Piccolomini, nephew of Pope Pius II and son in law of King Ferdinand I of Aragon. Similiraties can be found with other castles built by Count Piccolomini, such as Celano, Balsorano, Ortucchio, Capestrano. The central, inner tower is on four floors, the corner towers have two floors and the corridor connecting the round towers has merlons alternated with loopholes.

With the introduction of artillery castles lost their primary defensive functions and continued to be used as as sighting posts. The Rocca was badly ruined in the 1703 earthquake, and the population moved downward to the settlement of Calascio. Differently from the other casltles of the Aquilan territory, which were intended as a refuge for the villagers and therefore very large. On the contrary, the Rocca was intended only to accomodate the troops. and the surrounding plateau have been used as the backgroung for historical movies, such as Lady Hawke, starring Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer and is currently being used for a film on Padre Pio da Pietrelcina.

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Taken on July 7, 2007