La Storia di Lizori
“Lizori” è il toponimo di fantasia con il quale, dagli anni ’70 è conosciuto in Italia e all’estero Borgo S. Benedetto (o Castello di Pissignano Alta), frazione di Campello sul Clitunno. Questo castello e la sottostante valle spoletina sono stati presìdi privilegiati della Roma imperiale e repubblicana. Condottieri e senatori, conquistatori d’Oltralpe dall’epico nome come i germanici Barbarossa e poi Federico II furono qui. Fu Ostello di Papi, torre di avvistamento e fortificazione militare, luogo prescelto dall’era longobarda e carolingia in avanti, da mistici e religiosi, e dai limitrofi Ducati. Dentro le mura del castello di Pissignano alta si formò l’insediamento medievale dall’assetto attuale: strutture di difesa perimetrali che disegnano uno dei rarissimi castelli triangolari di pendio oggi perfettamente preservati in Italia.
Per approfondire l’affascinante storia del Borgo visita il
Borgo San Benedetto, the Castle of Pissignano Alto
2nd-5th cen. THE BARBARIANS
It was the time of the Barbarians, and people were fleeing their violence and plundering of their land and possessions. Later, given the abandonment and devastation of these places following the barbarian invasions, the depopulated territory became the destination of Syrian monks and hermits
5th cen. SYRIAN HERMITS
They arrived in the 5th century, fleeing Syria. These Syrian monks and hermits founded a settlement of hermitages around Revalioso Hill, of which only the hermitage of Saint Anthony Abbot (located just above the place where the Castle of Pissignano stands) still exists. The oldest core of this monastery is carved out of rock, a habit they had kept from their land of origin, Syria.
This part of Umbria was everywhere scattered with this hermitical presence that would later give rise to the Benedictine movement. St. Benedict was the first to introduce monasticism into the western world and he got inspiration for his rule from these hermits, which is the reason why he is now the patron saint of Europe. You can often see elsewhere in Umbria similar places dug in the same way. Also in the fifth century, a Roman temple was adapted or built ex novo and dedicated to the Savior.
Today it is known as Tempietto del Clitunno, and it is included in the serial site “The Longobards in Italy: Places of Power”, that was listed in 2011 in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Historians disagree whether it was built in the fifth century or if it was an older, adapted building. What is certain is that in the fifth century it became a Christian church. Not far from the Tempietto, looking towards Spoleto, above the embankment of the Clitunno river, a church dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel was also built, with another sacred place with baptistry dedicated to St. John the Baptist next to it. In the 19th century, their remains were turned into a farmhouse that still exists today. The new parish church in Pissignano would only be built in 1854, also named after St. Michael, the Archangel.
5th-8th cen. THE LONGOBARDS
The Longobards would stay around these lands for a long time after Theodelapius became Duke of Spoleto in 602. And his half-century of rule resulted in long, peaceful periods, uncommon of a Longobard duke.
10th cen. BENEDICTINE MONKS
Later, Benedictine monks also came to live here and founded their own settlement around the tenth century, that probably depended on one of the most important abbeys in the area, perhaps that of Santa Croce di Sassovivo or San Pietro di Bovara.
They also built a church dedicated to their founding father St. Benedict, under which a few houses were first built and the medieval settlement had gradually formed, whose structure would later give rise to the present one. Following this event, the inhabitants of the area began to call it Colle and Borgo San Benedetto.
11th cen. CURRENT STRUCTURE OF THE CASTLE
The castle that we see today, with its lookout tower and a small nucleus for the defence of the inhabitants was built however in the 11th century, perhaps founded by Francesco Sancio, a French nobleman who descended to Italy in 1026 in the retinue of Emperor Conrad II of Franconia, known as “il Salico”. Francesco Sancio gave birth to the Sansi barony in Spoleto, which would rule the place for several decades, until its liberation.
Because of its strategic position along the Clitunno valley, the possession of the castle was long disputed by Spoleto and Trevi, whose continuous skirmishes brought about a depopulation that was soon reversed by the arrival of others enticed by the offer of tax exemptions and privileges.
12th – 13th cen.
The territory of Spoleto was very vast in this period and it also included the Castle of Pissignano. Castles were almost always built on the side or on top of a hill because this position allowed safer defense from enemies and they were all surrounded by walls and towers. In the strongholds of the castles the municipality used to appoint a castellan – akin to a military governor – who controlled the fortification to defend it from the enemies’ assaults.
Frederick Barbarossa In 1155, while Emperor Frederick Barbarossa was besieging Spoleto, he was headquartered near Pissignano, which at that time was under the jurisdiction of Trevi. We also know that in 1213 the Spoleto duke Diopold passed Pissignano under the jurisdiction of Spoleto, along with Pigge, Azzano and Clarignano, in exchange for help against Trevi.
Frederick II The castle of Pissignano is then mentioned in a 1241 diploma by Frederick II that lists all the castles and rural villas under the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Spoleto. The same thing happens in 1247 among the concessions of administrative and jurisdictional autonomy granted to the same municipality by Cardinal Raniero Capocci on behalf of the Apostolic Chamber. The diploma by Frederick II is a parchment found in the State Archives in Spoleto, in which the emperor defines the territory and sets the terms of his district. As a matter of fact, the city of Spoleto, taking advantage of the existing struggles between the powers of the Pope and the emperor, had established itself as a free commune, chasing away the German feudatory family of the Urslingen, and used to fluctuate between the two powers, allying itself with what it considered the most favourable on the spur of the moment.
St. Francis The territory of Pissignano saw also the presence of St. Francis and his followers, who during the various peregrinations almost certainly passed through this place. It is said that St. Francis, on his way back from the capital, thus commented on the land towered over by the castle: “Nihil jucundus vidi Valle mea Spoletana” i.e. “I never saw anything more beautiful than my Spoleto valley”. He also received the hermitage of Saint Anthony Abbot as a gift, that his disciples would enlarge in 1370 and make prosper until the unification of Italy, when the convent was suppressed and sold to privates. But since the 1920s, thanks to Sister Mary and Her Larks, it has become the first ecumenical centre.
14th – 16th sec.
At the same time, the Spoleto municipal authorities were dispossessing the lords of the castles in the surrounding area (Ancajani, Pianciani, Campello) having them sign deeds that the families submitted to the city of Spoleto, in which they relinquished their properties, to go and live in the city, maintaining in exchange various privileges, and thus becoming the city’s noble class; almost certainly, this was the destiny of those in Pissignano.
In that period, several castles were also fortified, especially those farthest from the city, so as to create a network of sighting and protection along the borders with other territories, castles that largely became satellites of Spoleto while having their own statutes.
The castle of Pissignano, being placed along the borders, was occupied several times both by mercenary captains and city rebels and over the centuries it was occupied by Biordo Michelotti, Pirro Tomacelli, Braccio da Montone, Corrado Trinci, Girolamo Brancaleoni, Annibale Baglioni, Renzo da Ceri and Petrino Leocilli, but soon returned under the jurisdiction of the district of Spoleto.
In 1416 the Trinci family from Foligno came into possession of the Castle, inside whose walls the family built a palace that still retains the name of Palazzo Trinci a.k.a. Palazzo Ducale. Restored several times, it still preserves most of its original architectural features, which have incredibly resisted the neglect and devastation of time and have been consolidated; it is now used as an exhibition and meeting centre.
The Castle of Pissignano, like the other castles around Spoleto, also enjoyed administrative autonomy regulated by the Statutes, whose known version dates to 1543, while the original has been lost.
The Castle has been an autonomous, free commune until 1817, so much so that the Town Hall can still be identified today in the urban fabric of the village. But after 1817 it became an appodiato (Within the Middle Ages administrative system in use in the States of The Church, an Appodiato used to be an administrative unit immediately below the municipality; it would be finally abolished in 1859) of that of Campello sul Clitunno, that the castle would fully join in 1860.
Among the buildings that are still preserved inside the walls of the castle there is also the old Town Hall, easily identifiable for the presence of a 1545 devotional Marian image on the façade, that had replaced another one at least a century older, some remains of which are visible under the external staircase to the upper floor.
Particular features of this settlement are the numerous external ovens found in almost all the houses; a rather strange thing, since the various castles had generally a common oven, collectively contracted and managed according to the statutory rules.
What does “Lìzori” mean? Three words in one:
is an adverb of place in Italian, that means there.
is the most ancient form that
the Greek verb to live used to have
is a conjugated form of the
ancient Greek verb orao, that means to see.
LIZORI: There where life sees, there where life contemplates itself
With a glorious past of centuries behind, and a more recent season (past WWII) during which the castle was reduced to a state of total abandonment, the hamlet has known its rebirth since the second half of the 1970s by initiative of a group of Italians – architects, engineers, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, professionals – coordinated by Antonio Meneghetti, really loved these places, where he grew up artistically.
The redevelopment of the hamlet was carried out with private resources exclusively, investments by dozens of people united by enthusiasm and passion, not only to buy and renovate, all of them, their own run-down real estate unit, but also to give back all the spaces of common use to the collectivity. Without subsidies or sponsors, without public or third party funding, without any speculative intent.
Technically, the recovery of the hamlet was carried out under the sign of rigorous faithfulness to the original structure, integrated when necessary to adapt it to new functions. Natural stone, terracotta, wood, mortar, handmade bricks, beams from centuries-old olive trees, materials recycling down to the last pebble with construction methods updated by reading the pre-existing. The intervention ranged from static consolidation to urbanization works and the preparation of sub-services. Not only the single houses, but also all public spaces: streets, squares, terraces. The recovery undertaken and successfully completed has returned a real historical-architectural jewel to the collective use, a jewel that would soon become an international laboratory of art, culture and training, in the name of timeless humanistic values.
A season of new youth therefore started for this place, which truly resurfaced to our days and represents today one of the very rare triangular hillside castles perfectly preserved in Italy.
Those who have worked and invested in the recovery of this village for over forty years, fondly call it Lizori.
Lizori is also the headquarters of numerous associations, bodies and institutions, both national and international, which operate in various fields: from the artistic to the scientific, from research to the training of a man who’s industrious in his place, but open to the new globalization to radiate social values, civilization and development.
There is also a medieval Gallo d’Oro restaurant and a country house “Borgo Lizori” that allows you to stay, if you wish.