Torrechiara Castle

Torrechiara Castle - Photo © Kinthia
Torrechiara Castle – Photo © Kinthia


Dominating the Val Parma, it was constructed by Pier Maria Rossi between 1448 and 1460, and right from the beginning devised as an instrument of defence, as well as a distinguished home for the count and his lover Bianca Pellegrini da Arluno.

Positioned on the very first hills, in an area which has always been remembered for its mild climate, surrounded by vineyards it benefits from a beautiful view towards the end of the valley as well as towards the city.

Once having surpassed all the defensive details and having admired the battle structures, the entrance to the courtyard creates a sense of peace and strongly evokes court life just like itwas once: such as decorations, lodges, wells, which describe a beautiful home more than an instrument of war.

The decorations describe the tastes of the various owners as well as the various eras.

From the chapel of Saint Nicomede, in the North-Eastern tower, which contain the two empty tombs of the two lovers, you can go on to a series of rooms with decorations from the fifteenth century. Two gracious, small rooms re-evoke the peaceful stay of a cardinal, which is then followed by a kitchen offering intelligent solutions to organization.


The dining-room is remarkable for its geographical decorations on show for the guests as a sign of the owners’ culture.

The gold room from the period of Pier Maria (1464), is a complete anthem to love and the anxieties of love in the search for the loved one. The external lodgings completes an itinerary of tranquil joy, peaceful celebrations and of dignified and passionate lovers.

Benedictine Torrechiara’s Abbey.

Pier Maria Rossi erected in 1471 the “Abbey of Santa Maria of snow”, perhaps for her natural son Ugolino, who was then an abbot of S.Giovanni Evangelista of Parma, appears to have never been decorated with the title at Torchiara; not even by Ugolino, as has been erroneously upheld by various historians, who refer to a quotation expressed one might add in a dubious way, by Bonaventura Angeli, chronicler belonging to the end of the 16th Century.

Torrechiara Castle
Torrechiara Castle – Photo © fraro1970

Two years later, when the construction of the monastery should have already been well in progress, Pier Maria asked for the Pope’s ecclesiastical approval. Sisto IV authorised the erection of the convent, with his own official seal given to Ilario Anselmi, Archbishop of Parma’s cathedral on 12th April 1473. The convent was composed of a church, bell-tower, dormitory, cemetery, refectory, cloister, garden, vegetable garden and other services, sufficient for a community of twenty monks of the Saint Giustina of Padova’ congregation. The founder provided the complex with an appropriate number of assets, made up of a few country estates and other properties.

On 6th and 7th June 1479, as shown by a now lost inscription, the church, the altars, the chapter, a third part of the cloister were all consecrated and the cemetery blessed. We have no other news about the construction and how the work evolved. The only historical information regarding war events is: in 1483 when it risked being involved in the siege on the nearby castle by Ludovico il Moro’s troops. Furthermore, on 19th November 1551, during Parma’s war, Ottavio Farnese’s military, fearing that the imperial troops barricaded in the castle could occupy the monastery, attempted to start a fire but fortunately with minor damage.

After these war occurrences, which barely escaped affecting the peace of the nearby monastery, the convent carried on tranquilly until the last century, when it was suppressed twice. The first time was during the carrying out of the Napoleonic laws in 1810, which saw it being privately rented out (the report of consignment on 24th September 1814 is important, that gives a detailed description of the monastery.). The second time was as a consequence of the Regio Decree of 7th July 1866, after the monks had received it back from Maria Luigia d’Austria in 1816. Having sold the furniture and other objects, the properties were put up for auction in 1870 and were bought by a Benedictine monk, Father Ildebrando Dell’Oro. A helping loan was given to him by the “Dame” of the St. Orsola college in Parma, which in exchange used the establishment as a holiday place for a couple of years. The monks didn’t return there until 18th October 1889.

During the First World War it was occupied by our troops for a short period, from the middle of December 1917, till the end of February of the following year. During the last conflict it housed rare books and precious manuscripts deriving from various libraries in Emilia, amongst which the famous miniature “Bible of Borso d’Este”; even various artistic objects were able to find refuge there, moved away following the bombardments that were gravely hitting the city.

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