The Castello Dentice di Frasso, historic home dating back to the Norman period located in the Alto Salento, dominates the town from its highest point; The Castle is open to the public for exhibitions and guided tours throughout the summer while some rooms can be used for weddings and conferences upon request to the municipal offices,
Castello Dentice di Frasso History
The origins of this manor are lost around the year one thousand, when it was probably erected by the Norman Boemondo d'Altavilla. At the beginning it was a feudal castle under the Norman domination of Godfrey III of Montescaglioso (1163), then under the Swabian domination of Robert de Biccari (1194), then with the Angevin domination of Adamo de Tremblay (1306).
A first nucleus of the castle already existed when, in 1306, the dispute between Manfredo de Carovineo, feudatory since 1273, and the Angevin knight Adamo de Tremblay, a terrible despot, who became a feudal lord in 1306, attracted the hostility of the inhabitants of Carovignesi forced to resort to King Charles II for his intervention, which intervened by obliging him to return to the citizens the properties he had taken from them improperly.
From Adamo de Tremblay the fief and the castle passed to the Sembiase family and in 1327 to Carlo de Carvigna. In 1330 the fiefdom passed under the dominion of that vast and powerful principality that was headed by the princes of Taranto and in 1382 became owner Raimondo del Balzo Orsini, Prince of Taranto. To this last family, and in particular to Raimondo del Balzo Orsini, the construction of the circular tower is attributed, the consolidation of the wall of the east side.
This is deducible, since this name results from a half-erased stone inscription, which is located on the piece of ancient wall on the side of the so-called "Forno Del Prete", and there is also to think that the Prince had also restored the wall to put the "Land of Carovigno" in perfect state of defense, as the times required.
Since the most terrible enemies were the corsairs then, the palace with its great tower was built on the side facing the Adriatic Sea, to test the fortification system, which also included other towers leaning against the walls, as can be seen from that 'only remained, which defended the so-called, then, "Porta di Brindisi".
Prince Raimondo del Balzo Orsini, dying in 1407, left all the properties and the castle of Carovigno to his wife, Queen Maria d'Enghien, Countess of Lecce.
The first description of the castle is documented in the inventory of 1444, attributed to Maria d'Enghien: "Item have dicta" Item have dicta corte a palace with room to walk stalle et cellaro, mill, aquarium and conservatives, and others very members with a tower on the side of the palace towards Hostuni ».
Since the prince of Taranto Raimondo del Balzo Orsini and his wife, Queen Maria d'Enghien, had no children, King Ferdinand I of Aragon in 1464 decided to donate the castle and the fief to Bartolomeo de Ursinis, in relation to valuable services rendered.
In 1492, the fief of Carovigno was granted by King Ferdinand I of Aragon to Giovan Gaspare De Loffreda, from the illustrious Neapolitan family who boasts famous men in arms and in government (the most powerful, Ferrante Loffredo, was governor of Terra d 'Otranto and Viceré from 1570 to 1572). Then the fate of the fiefdom and the castle is as follows: from the baron Pirro Loffredo (1500) to the baron Gaspare Loffredo (1507), from the baron Giuseppe Loffredo (1520) to the baron Leonardo Loffredo (1529), from the baron Scipione Loffredo (1562) to baron Pirro Loffredo (1589) (a lineage that begins with a Pyrrhus and closes with a Pyrrhus). This change of families, which occurred so often, derived not only from the easy lack of heirs, but also from the non-fulfillment of the obligations of the feudal lord towards the Crown, for which new devolutions and concessions followed.
In this period, under the Loffredo family, the castle assumes the appearance, even today largely visible, of a late medieval fortification with a triangular layout, with towers at the top connected by massive curtains. The south tower, square, with a perimeter wall of perimeter, could be a pre-existence of the Norman period. A perimeter border, now interrupted in several sections, bandaged unifying the entire fortification.
The ogival tower, to the north-west, on which the vajata weapon of the Loffreda still exists, a typically typological construction among the Italian fortifications, is attributed to Francesco di Giorgio Martini. This is certainly not the place to reopen the debate on this attribution; the hypothesis of the presence, at the illuminated court of the Prince of Taranto Giovanni del Balzo Orsini, (between 1491 and 1492), of architect Di Giorgio Martini, to whom, among other things, the configuration of the castles of Gallipoli, Taranto and Otranto.
The presence of the Sienese architect has certainly influenced the Apulian military architecture of the early 1500s, at a time when new war and combat techniques revolutionize defense systems; in fact, in case of attacks with cannon balls, the triangular shape of the construction would have allowed to deflect the blows and to resist better than a normal flat wall.
The Loffreda family, moreover, can not be inserted into the architectural culture of the time, since some of its members hold the highest offices in the central government.
The Marquis Padula happens in Loffreda in 1595 and the castle is (according to the Pitella Tabulario) described as follows: «... et cum a Castle with very good and very comfortable habitat for any titulo, because there is every commodity and cum many pits, lustes that are coié magazeni to keep the same and also to repeal all ... ».
In 1597 the castle passed to Agostino Caputo, then in 1619 the fief and the castle passed to the noble Genoese family Serra, then to Ottavio Serra in 1629.
The inventory of 1622, drawn up by the notary Giovanni Scatigna of Carovigno, kept in the State Archives of Brindisi, when the fief and the castle passed to the Serra family, testifies the exclusive use of rich and sumptuous residence of the building, the amount of furniture, furnishings, objects of use and items of clothing. The inventory therefore supports the hypothesis of the transformation to that date of the castle, from a military fortress to a noble residence.
The De LeIlis, in noble families of the Kingdom of Naples of 1671, recalls the hospitality offered, in the castle of Carovigno, to a company of noble Venetians.
At that time the castle is subject to several changes of ownership: from Ottavio Serra (which we remember built the castle of Serranova, obtaining the title of marquis of Serranova) to the bishop Scipione Costaguti in 1653, from these in 1661 to Giuseppe Castaldi, then to Giulio di Sangro in 1684, and finally to the baron Nicola Granafei in 1702.
About the baron Granafei, it is said that these, wanting at all costs to frolic with dishonest aims with the daughter of a noble family of the country, so provoked the brothers that one day they decided to make a solemn lesson unforgettable manesca. Gathering him to know that the young sister was waiting for him at night in his palace, today called Donna Fiora, they hid there; So the baron, as he entered, was taken and bound, and after having smashed him with deadly blows with sandbags, they locked him in a sack that they went to lay before the door of the Castle. Here the following morning in the most ridiculous and commiserevole state of his cagnotti, vulga and Janissaries, which formed the baronial garrison of those times, was transported to the castle. Then the young family, to escape the relentless persecution of the baron, was forced to emigrate to Brindisi. The baron, not knowing how to make vengeance of the atrocious nocturnal offense received, made cowardly to cut the trees of the plantation then belonging to the aforesaid family.
So the feud and the castle came in 1742 to the Prince of Francavilla Fontana Michele Imperiali, with whom the castle definitively completed the transformation from a military fortress to a noble residence. In support of this hypothesis, it can be understood that the Onciario Cadastre was drawn up by the University of Carovigno in 1742, describing the properties of the Prince of Francavilla Fontana, Michele Imperiali, among other things: "It possesses a substantial building in the confines of this land. in the hall, rooms, and underneath, garret, and stable and under the said Palace there is a storeroom to put them back, and the cellar, with the church still attached to the palace, and everything convenient."
Moreover, Cosimo De Giorgi, in his La Provincia di Lecce, printed in 1888, reveals that, "Entering the atrium of the castle, one notices that it has lost its ancient appearance: the new buildings, executed at the time of the Imperials, have made to lose the primitive character ".
With the death of Michele Imperiali - he too had no one to succeed him - the last devolution to the Royal Fiscal Movement took place in 1782. No longer wanting to learn about feudal concessions, the feudal regime ended, with all the harassment that it derived, even if the greater evils did not derive so much from the feudal lord, who mostly lived in Naples, but from the people who in his place administered.
In 1792 the castle of Carovigno with its fiefdom was sold in absolute and without feudal duties to the prince Gerardo Dentice di Frasso, but the fortress falls into abandonment, up to the "restorations" of 1906-1916.
The dubious act of sale makes the application of the Murattian laws on the abolition of feudality complex and litigious, and causes a long controversy between the Municipality and the Casa Dentice.
Uninhabited for almost a century, the castle returned to its residential destination in 1904, when the Count Alfredo Dentice di Frasso became owner, having received the castle as a wedding present, he settled there with his wife, the Austrian Countess Elisabetta Schlieppenbach .
The renovation work is entrusted to the engineer Marskizeck, originally from Naples, who, according to the considerations of Armando Comez (a friend of the Dentice and author of a booklet on the art of weaving in Carovigno), "had to work on scarce traces, but the imagination helped him, allowing him to blend the predominant styles in Puglia with great wisdom, ranging from the strict reasons of the early Middle Ages to the Tuscan grace of the '300; from oriental geometry to Spanish exuberance ».
Another testimony of the time, that of Alessandro Carlucci, author of Il Castello Feudale del Conte Alfredo Dentice in Carovigno, describes the state of the building immediately before the intervention of 1906: «The Castle of which we deal, as well as battered by age it threatened ruin by deep injuries and was a receptacle of barn owls and other nocturnal birds; among the cracks, in the traps, on the windows, and inside the rooms, which remained closed and uninhabited, broods of birds were found, as well as the burrows of mice sunk in the great thickness of the walls in which an infinite number of bats took part ».
The restoration carried out in the years 1906-1916 has two reasons: on the one hand the consolidation of existing structures, compromised by time and abandonment, on the other the adaptation of the environments to new housing needs and the implementation of an apparatus to scenographic purposes necessary for the exaltation of the noble and social prestige of the aristocratic proprietary couple. The design engineer makes a restoration with the romantic idea of historical reconstruction and stylistic integration, according to an address already surpassed by the most advanced restoration culture, but which in Puglia and the Hapsburg Empire was still prevailing.
If the taste or fashion of the time, therefore, impose a certain style, the ambition of Count Dentice, cultured man and "world", admiral of the royal navy, radically transforms the ancient appearance of the castle. Immediately before the work begins, a series of civilian houses are purchased, leaning against the circular tower on the north-east side, which will determine a new court that will later become the "delightful and very decent jardin". Flowers and plants everywhere: "from the palm to the rose, the vines to the mimosas, the mosses, the lichens ...".
Not inconsiderable is the presence of Countess Elizabeth Dentice, a female figure of considerable cultural importance, formed in the European climate of the late nineteenth century, which probably is the bearer of those gothic and romantic "atmospheres", and re-proposes, on the old walls of the castle, in the interiors, in the decorations and furnishings, that lifestyle of the last Hapsburg aristocracy. A woman of refined culture, the public countess in Trieste, two collections of verses in 1930 and 1935, maintains relations, during the years spent in Carovigno 1906-1938, with the world of international culture, finance, politics; it hosts in the castle, definitively transformed into "luxurious and refined residence", the best Italian and European aristocracy (Registry of illustrious guests of the Dentice family between 1904-1944).
So, between 1906 and 1916, the castle assumed that neo-gothic, romantic, neo-European appearance it still possesses.
The most important changes to the exterior are: the constitution of the external courtyard with the acquisition of the neighboring "casupole" and their restructuring and / or construction with the use of the neo-Gothic language; the raising of the perimeter crowning of the triangular fortification of several meters with the construction of new crenellations and machicolations; the construction of the tower in adherence to that of the early Middle Ages and the altar portico of 6 arches; the construction of the portico leaning against the south tower and the passage to the Sant'Anna chapel; the covered walkway leaning against the round tower.
In 1943, Vittorio Emanuele and Elena of Montenegro, who were leaving for exile, slept in the castle.
In 1961 the castle became public property through the deed of sale stipulated between Count Luigi Dentice di Frasso (nephew and only heir testamentary since Count Alfredo had no children) and the O.N.M.I. (of which he was President Giuseppe Caromia).