History of Abruzzo – The Renaissance and the Baroque period

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Ceramica Museo Castelli – Photo © www.ioscelgoitaliano.it

The Angioini dynasty was followed by that of the Aragonesi when, in 1442, the Kingdom of Naples fell into the hands of Alfonso d’Aragona. L’Aquila’s resistance was inefficacious in trying to impede the transition of power, and it was subdued in 1492.

After a brief period of French domination, Abruzzo followed the fate of the Kingdom of Naples which had passed into the hands of Ferdinando the Catholic in 1504.

The struggles between Ferdinando’s successor, Carlo V, and the King of France, involved Abruzzo in numerous serious military clashes.

The cities of Abruzzo, and L’Aquila in particular, sided with France but were drastically punished by the Spanish monarch who, by splitting up the rural areas around the city and subjecting the latter to harsh repressive measures in 1529, ordained a decline which was then impossible to stop.

Under Spanish domination numerous fortification works were built. These were a testimony to the strategic importance that Abruzzo had in the dispute between France and Spain. The Spanish entrusted the plans for such works, amongst which there were the Castle of L’Aquila, and the Fortress of Pescara, to the architect, Pirro Luigi Scrivo, who was also responsible for the Castel Sant’Elmo in Naples. Furthermore, the ancient castles were transformed from simple defensive building into residences which were architecturally more complex. One of the most significant examples of this is the Celano Castle (Aq), which has a squared plan and a precise geometric structure built around an arcade decorated with open galleries; however one must not forget either the Balsorano Castle (Aq), the Piccolomini Castle of Ortucchio (Aq), and that of Gagliano Aterno (Aq).

During the 15th century the slow introduction of Renaissance forms affected sacred and civil buildings as well as castles. Building work that was more airy and open was grafted onto medieval forms as in the case of the church of the Annunziata in Sulmona (Aq) or in many noble palaces in Sulmona, L’Aquila, Popoli and Tagliacozzo. These were enriched with spacious courtyards, flights of steps and arcades which were of a scenographic nature. The Tuscan Renaissance style was so widespread in Abruzzo that the church of S. Bernardino in L’Aquila (1415), is planimetrically reminiscent of the church of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence; whilst San Flaviano in Giulianova (Te) and Santa Maria del Tricalle in Chieti are likewise examples of the attention that was given in Abruzzo to the temples with center plan of the Tuscan Renaissance.

The Baroque period, which developed after the plague of 1656 and the two earthquakes of 1703 and 1706, took the forni of a time of reconstruction and developed both in the construction of new buildings like the churches of Santa Caterina and Sant’Agostino in L’Aquila, and – more often-in the internal decoration of antique medieval churches. Nearly all of them were enriched with costly Baroque ornaments, and, thanks to the strong artisan tradition of carved wood, made precious with valuable furnishings and ligneous ceilings as well as spectacular and imposing organs. Amongst the most prominent Baroque achievements there are the Badia Morronese, (Morronese Abbey), near Sulmona (Aq), the church of the Annunziata in Penne (Pe), and that of Sulmona, the church of the Suffragio in L’Aquila, that of Santa Maria Assunta in Castel di Sangro and the church of Santo Spirito in Teramo