Torrechiara: The Castle where Love and Art Cradled the Secret of Eternity

A love at first glance, a Castle where to protect it: a trip over five centuries between the rooms of the Torrechiara fortress

by Camilla Alderotti -

Complex is the plot of events that surrounds the Castle of Torrechiara, a wonderful fortress dominating Val Parma; the one that has attracted more attention over the centuries is the story of the love between Pier Maria Rossi and Bianca Pellegrini, love that here has flourished and has been consumed until the end of his days

Torrechiara is Art for Love ...

It is for the beloved that the valiant captain of “ventura” began in 1448 the construction of the Castle. Between the two, who had met a few years before at the court of the Visconti, a love blossomed at first sight, so that Bianca abandoned everything, land and family, to tighten the side of Pier Maria forever. Of this love is still perceived the resonance, a guarded love in the beautiful frescoes that are witness and seal. It is even said that Pier Maria was a true enthusiast of castles, so to commission them to dozens: he was not only a tender lover and valiant warrior, but also a humanist and promoter of the arts; with the castle of Torrechiara, he made a unique work of art on the territory of Parma.

The oldest and best preserved frescoes are those that still decorate the famous Golden House

The name of the room derived from the gold that once covered the terracotta molds with which the walls were largely covered. The whole decoration tells us about the union of the two lovers, becoming a metaphor of an oath of love and eternal fidelity. The molds reproduce five decorative motifs: the lion, the symbol of Pier Maria, the castle, alluding to Bianca, the heart and the ribbon, symbolizing their love, and a fifth a crucifix ornament that acts as a trait d'union among others. Looking up at the top there is the sequel of the private life scenes of the two protagonists, a unique case for the era. Of great historic value and documentary is the background, which in all respects represents a geographical map of the feudal castles: in the sails the mountain castles, in the lunette the ones of the plain. The attribution of this masterpiece remains controversial; Benedetto Bembo remains most favored by historians, but others suggested Gerolamo Bembo or Bonifacio Bembo and even Francesco Tacconi from Cremona.

... and Love for Art

In 1482 Pier Maria died and the castle, after various passages in the sixteenth century, handed over to the Sforza of Santa Fiora. These also helped to increase the artistic value of the building, starting a huge renovation project with some architectural modifications. In 1575 Francesco Sforza will continue the work of restoration and embellishment by entrusting the famous painter Cesare Baglioni with the task of renovating the decoration of the castle. Only the Golden House will be kept intact and Baglioni, which came to Torrechiara in the eighties of the sixteenth century, will include extraordinary floral motifs, especially in the beautiful pergola of the homonymous floor room. In fact, the artist was, among other things, an expert ornithologist and this is due to the representation of many species of birds on the walls of Castelli commissioned to him as the Sanvitale Rocca in Sala Baganza.

The rooms of the Castle: crosses of visions in space

Walking on the ground floor, we are in front of a sky where dozens of birds fly free: we are in the Chapel of St. Nicomede, a space that anticipates the bizarre and grotesque representations of the Hall of Jupiter where the father of gods overwhelms everything in the center of time. They proceed in the Hall of Pergola, where vineyards intersect around a wooden skeleton, and in the present Sala dei Paesaggi, where Baglioni also demonstrates estro in the landscape and trompe-l'oeil, to continue to the Sala della Victory where the Bolognese artist celebrates peaceful coexistence between the religious and temporal power, between the Pope and the Emperor. The first room to be repainted under the Sforza was actually the Sala del Velario in 1575, which together with the rooms of Angels was intended to glorify the noble house. The impressive decorative work that began in the 1980s, however, also involves other skillful painters working alongside Baglioni, such as Innocenzo Martini and Giovanni Antonio Paganino, probably authors of some of the paintings in the Hall of Stemma. The three are at the same time all present in the Sala dei Giocolieri, a room of the first floor bordering the Golden Chamber, and named after those cause athletic dancing figures on one of the walls of the salon. The route ends with four rooms on the first floor called the Aurora, the Afternoon, the Sunset and the Evening, where incredible views are unfolded, but whose decorator is still uncertain today.

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