Pirro del Balzo Castle

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The Castle of Venosa was built by Pirro del Balzo in 1470 as reported on the epigraph on the West tower, “Mis fuit, o lector, cernis per carmina factor inclita prole satus dux orbi bautia Pyrrhus”, “That who built me, reader, you discover from the verse, was Pirro, descendant of the del Balzo noble family”, in front of the main door of the town, Porta Fontana, and where, on the same tower, is the radiating sun on the del Balzo’s coat of arms. Venosa was given to Pirro del Balzo, son of Francesco the duke of Andria, following his marriage to Maria Donata Orsini, daughter of Gabriele Orsini duke of Taranto. Pirro del Balzo fortified the town with a castle and surrounding walls to protect it from invasions. The building of the Castle on the strategic point of conjunction of the Reale and Ruscello valleys, and the digging of the moat in accordance with the new fortifying strategies of the time, caused the demolition of the San Felice Romanesque cathedral, built in the XI century on the remains of Roman cisterns, and of the surrounding quarter, on a ten thousand square meters wide area. For further security, a lavatory bridge was built on the east-south side by order of Pirro (the current entrance was built at the beginning of the XVII century) together with a deep inaccessible moat never filled with water.
With the building of the Castle, there was a renewed urbanistic organization of the town, and since the XVI century it remained almost the same, except for changes in the XVIII and XIX century. Works on the castle kept going on for almost one century after the death of the prince in 1487, and many rooms acquired a new function, as prison cells too as understandable from a graffiti written in 1503 by a prisoner in the west tower.
Following the arrival of Charles VIII and the contrast between French and Spanish armies for the conquest of the Reign of Naples, Venosa returned to life in the second half of the XVI century when, in 1561, Luigi Gesualdo earl of Conza became prince receiving the feud as a dowry from his wife who had bought it previously in 1543.
With the Gesualdo family, between the second half of the XVI century and the beginning of the new one, the castle becomes a fruitful place for artists and intellectuals. In that period a law and a medicine school were instituted, whilst at the Accademia dei Piacevoli and that of the Rinascenti, inspired by Emanuele Gesualdo, poets and intellectuals would meet to read their verses and discuss poetry. During this phase, the fist story of the North and West towers was built, the “quarto del Cardinale” (old side), while at the end of the XVI century the newer side between the North and East towers was completed. One century later, the arcades in front of the castle once used as cowsheds or stables were transformed into artisan shops, groceries, fabric shops and pubs, in the centre was a column with a stone lion at the top. The castle was acquired by the Municipality of Venosa only in 1899 following a public auction.
In the XX century, precisely during the 70s and 80s, the castle underwent a number of important restoration works.
Today Pirro del Balzo castle is a perfect cultural container, hosting the National Archaeological Museum, the Library and the municipal historic Archive, events, artistic and cultural happenings in the halls at the first floor and in the courtyard.

Aerial view of the Pirro del Balzo Castle

The loggia of the Castle



is not merely a place: it is an avant-garde idea generated and nourished in an Italian province, quite far from huge capitals.

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