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Defense


[image ALT: A village of about 20 stone houses, of two and three stories, stretched along the enclosing wall of an austere ruined castle with a 10‑meter square tower at either end, and a single 28‑meter square tower in the center, overgrown with vines about halfway up. It is a view of the village and castle of Pierle, Tuscany (central Italy).]

Pierle and her castle, seen from the S as you come in from Mercatale.

Pierle is a rocky outcrop of hill overlooking the place where the valley of the Niccone River broadens out into fertile farmland, a position which gave it the natural control of trade in the area; and there must have been some kind of stronghold here for centuries before the earliest notice we have of the place — the last decade of the 11c, when the castle of Pierle was mentioned in the will of one of the marquesses of Monte S. Maria. The castle changed hands several times in the next couple of centuries, as the two regional powers, the Tuscan town of Cortona and the Umbrian town of Perugia, slugged it out along what even today remains the border between Umbria and Tuscany: the Casali family of Cortona finally won out, and Pierle is in Tuscany.


[image ALT: An austere ruined castle, overgrown with vines about halfway up, with a square tower, 28‑meters tall, on the front left corner. It is a view of the castle of Pierle, Tuscany (central Italy).]
What the visitor sees today is only the latest of a series of castles on the site, built around 1371 on the ruins of those that preceded it, by Raniero Casali, a Knight of Rhodes who, as might be expected, knew a lot about military architecture: the date was for a long time preserved by an inscription, which has vanished but not before being recorded in the early 19c. Like many great defensive works, the castle of Pierle seems to have been successful, by sheer intimidation: we have no record of the castle ever having been attacked, or at least not by brute force and large armies; and if in 1387 there was a massacre here, it was the work of one of the castle's owners, Uguccio Casali, who used it to lock up, torture and eventually kill sixty men who had risen up against his family. Whatever the Casali family's problem was, this solution was only short-term: in 1428 Pierle, Mercatale and Lanciano (I've been unable to identify this last, although I suspect Lisciano) formed a little more or less independent place of their own, the "Val di Pierle", before a brief time under the King of Naples, who sold it to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the natural owner.

Like many great defensive works also, once the need for it had passed, the castle of Pierle seems to have been an expensive albatross: by the 16c, the border separated the Papal States and the Grand-Duchy of Tuscany, and a relatively civilized peace prevailed; in 1576 (or maybe 1587) Ferdinand de' Medici ordered it demolished, on the pretext that it was, or could be, a hideout of bandits and assassins.


[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the castle of Pierle, Tuscany (central Italy).]

Fortunately for the valley and visitors to it, it proved cheaper to perform bits of focused destruction rather than an out-and‑out demolition of the castle; Pierle has been abandoned for four hundred years. What's left is 220 meters of enclosing wall from 5 to 8 m high, and the remnants of three towers (some scholars think maybe four): the tall one is 28 m high, and is an extraordinary presence in the entire valley — see the Pierle orientation page for my own first view of it, which drew me here as irresistibly as anything could have.


[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the castle of Pierle, Tuscany (central Italy).]
	
[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the castle of Pierle, Tuscany (central Italy).]

The door you see (close‑up here) is the only entrance to the castle; the sign reads
"Keep out: this house may fall."
Do we believe that?


[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the castle of Pierle, Tuscany (central Italy).]

Page updated: 1 Dec 12