Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bellinzona, Switzerland (May 28, 2008)

Strategically situated on the route over the Alpine passes, Bellinzona was a fortress town as far back as Roman times. During the middle ages, the Dukes of Milan built three castles in Bellinzona - Castelgrande, Castello di Montebello and Castello di Sasso Corbaro - allowing them to control traffic through the valley. Bellinzona thus became known as the key to the Alps and the gateway to Lombardy. The three castles, the town walls and the towers together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Castelgrande on the west side of Bellinzona's Old Town is the oldest of the three castles. In the 12th century, the bishops of Como enlarged the original Roman fortress; it was later rebuilt in the middle ages by the Dukes of Milan.
The view from the tower of Castelgrande across to Castello di Montebello (below) and Castello di Sasso Corbaro (above). Castello di Sasso Corbaro, built in 1479, is the most recent of the three castles. In the left hand side of the photo, you can see part of the crenelated wall that once linked Castelgrande to Castello di Montebello, forming a strong defense system across the valley.
Castello di Montebello, with its 13th century keep and 15th century residential palace, is the most complex of Bellinzona's castles. The Renaissance monastery church Chiesa Collegiata dei SS Pietro e Stefano, built originally in the Gothic style, then rebuilt in the 16th century, lies in the center of Bellinzona's Old Town.
The modern town of Bellinzona has been built around the historic fortifications. Here you can see the old castle wall running through the center of town.

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