Monumental beauties in Ascoli Piceno: The Malatesta Fort
According to the historical tradition of Ascoli Piceno, and also reaffirmed by the current toponymy of Via Delle Terme, a Roman SPA complex stood centuries ago in that area, fed by an underground duct of “Salmacina” spring water coming from Castel Trosino.
In the Middle Ages, the “Rocchetta” replaced the ancient Roman “arx” defending the first brick bridge in the city; in 578 A.C. the Longobards of Faroaldo, then in 1242 the troops of Frederick II dismantled the Rocchetta.
Galeotto Malatesta, in 1349 wrote: “He came on the payroll of the citizens of Ascoli, but he came more to dominate than to defend them from the threat of Fermo. He began to rebuild and reinforce the city’s strongholds and in this place erected a fortress … the symbol of the tyrannical dominion over Ascoli ”; seven years later, a popular uprising drove the “brutal and cruel Lords” out of the city.
In the early 1500s, Fra ‘Cola da Turso, a hermit, and fervent preacher, convinced the citizens of Ascoli to build “the dodecagonal church of Santa Maria de lo lacho …” on the Rocchetta. The church has a domed roof, four elegant late-Gothic windows, and a beautiful Renaissance portal with a lunette and a finely decorated architrave by Maestro Bernardino da Corona. The portal is in the style of Francesco di Giorgio, who worked in the Ducal Palace of Urbino.
In 1543 Pope Paul III Farnese imposed the city to transform the Fortress into a papal garrison by commissioning the project to Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. The Church of Santa Maria del Lago was converted into a bastion for artillery as a warning against the aggressive factions of Ascoli. After 1798, the French troops used the Forte Malatesta as a barracks, and finally, from 1840, it was converted into a prison.
After the dismantling of the nineteenth-century superstructures, a careful renovation has restored the fort to its original shape. The renovation recovered the evocative interior spaces, dedicating them to a museum and exhibition function, more in keeping with its historical-monumental prestige. Today the ancient Ponte di Cecco, which certainly worths a visit, is connected to Forte Malatesta.
In the Fort, there is the Museum of the Early Middle Ages, and inside are preserved a lot of interesting archaeological finds that tell the rich story of Ascoli Piceno. Stay updated! Follow our Blog to check the exhibitions and stands that are periodically carried out inside the Malatesta Fort.
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AUTHOR: Prof. Giorgio Giorgi, art historian