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Migianella de' Marchesi

A Secluded Outpost in the Hills


[image ALT: A partial view of a farmhouse made up of at least three agglomerated rough stone buildings, two of them two stories tall, the other three. Next to this last, a rounded archway leading to a drop in the void: we're standing on the edge of a tall mountain, and several lower hills can be made out on the other side of that arch, partly shrouded in fog. It is in Migianella dei Marchesi near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

The little hilltop hamlet of Migianella de' Marchesi — nominally a castle, but now more of a rural manor in fact — is part of the outlying territory of the comune of Umbertide, a fairly large town, and is only about 7 km from it: but it is reached by a narrow road winding up thru empty hills, almost mountains, and is another world altogether, a thousand feet higher than the narrow plain of the Tiber that it overlooks. I walked here from Umbertide in 2004: my diary entry is particularly informative (that's not a given), and I found this austere, untended place rather depressing by a cold, damp, cloud-smothered February day with its touches of snow.


[image ALT: A clump of rustic old stone farm buildings, mostly two stories tall; they are grouped in two clumps separated by a low tile-roofed gate. It is a view of the castle hamlet of Migianella dei Marchesi near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

Considering Migianella's general appearance at the time, of abandon and here and there of downright decay, I was surprised to see, under the ground‑level window you see above, a careful modern informational plaque, undamaged, telling the history of the castle. I was also grateful: Antonio Guerrini's text brought to life for me a place which otherwise would have been a desolate ruin. It is only fair, and the least I can do, to share it with you: a straightforward transcription of the Italian first, followed by my translation. I only regret that I don't know who thought to make and place these sixteen tiles here: chiunque siete, grazie!


[image ALT: A square plaque made up of sixteen porcelain tiles bearing a long inscription in cursive. It is a modern plaque at Migianella dei Marchesi near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy). The text on the plaque is about the history of Migianella: it is reproduced on this page, and translated.]

Migianella dei Marchesi

Il castello di Migianella rimonta ad una vetustissima età anteriore certamente al mille. Nella prima metà del Secolo XIV fu munito di Torri e Baluardi a servizio dell' Artiglieria, nell' epoca appunto in cui pressi Civitale (nel 1331) tuonava in Italia per la prima volta il cannone. Questo castello fu riattato nel 1408. Anche nel 1415 nel 1444 e nel 1482 dal consiglio Generale di Perugia venivano accordati sussidi, ed esenzioni di Tasse per ulteriori necessari lavori. Nel 1479 Migianella sofferse ruine e devastazioni terribili. Nella guerra contro l' iracondo Sisto IV per la morte data dai Pazzi a Giuliano dei Medici cui il papa (sia detto in buona pace) alquanto contribuì le truppe Fiorentine vittoriose nei Campi di Monte Sperello si avvanzarono a taglieggiare le circostanti Castelli del Perugino Territorio. Migianella ne risentì crudelmente gli effetti, essendo stata posta a sacco, fattivi prigionieri uomini e donne, trucidati barbaramente vecchi inermi e venerandi, e sgozzati persino i teneri lattanti nelle misere loro cune! Nel 1642 altra rottura insorse fra Urbano VIII ed il Duca Odoardo Farnese, cognato di quei di Toscana, e però le truppe Fiorentine, invadendo lo Stato del Pontefice nel mese di Novembre 1693 stettero per cinque giorni accampati nei dintorni di Migianella depredando grasce, bestiami, e persino le sacre suppellettili delle Chiese. Si legge inoltre in una cronica di quei tempi che in questa guerresca fazione i soldati Fiorentini arrivati improvvisamente a Migianella, oltre agli eccessi enunciati, giunsero al sagrilego ardimento di tagliare la sacra Piside e trovatale di rame dorato, la scagliarono rapidamente per la Chiesa, disperdendone con le sacre Particole. La Parrocchiale di questo Castello rimonta alla di lui vetustà, ed ha il titolo di S. Michele Arcangelo.

Dalla Storia di Fratta di Antonio Guerrini.

The castle of Migianella is very old, having certainly been built before A.D. 1000. In the first half of the 14c it was provided with towers and ramparts designed for artillery; this was the period that heard the first roar of the cannon in Italy, at Cividale in 1331. The castle was refitted in 1408; and in 1415, 1444, and 1482 subsidies and tax exemptions were granted by the General Council of Perugia for further work needed.

In 1479 Migianella suffered terrible ruin and devastation. In the war against Sixtus IV, who was furious at the death meted out by the Pazzi to Giuliano dei Medici — to which the Pope, it must be said in all fairness, had contributed to some extent — the troops of Florence, victorious at the Battle of Monte Sperello, advanced to cut off the surrounding castles from the territory of Perugia. Migianella cruelly felt the effects: it was sacked, men and women were taken prisoner, venerable old men, unarmed, were barbarously slaughtered, and the throats of tender suckling babes were slit in their poor cribs!

In 1642 another contention arose between Urban VIII and Duke Odoardo Farnese, a relative of the dukes of Tuscany: so Florentine troops, invading the territory of the Papal States in the month of November 1693, stayed for five days camped near Migianella, plundering crops, livestock, and even the sacred furnishings of the churches. We read furthermore in a chronicle of the time that in this action the soldiers of Florence having arrived suddenly at Migianella, in addition to the excesses already mentioned, dared to lay sacrilegious hands on the sacred pyx, chopped it to pieces, and finding it to be [merely] of gilt brass, scattered them in haste thru the Church with the sacred hosts it contained.

The parish church of this castle is of equal antiquity, and is titled St. Michael Archangel.

from Storia di Fratta by Antonio Guerrini [published in 1883]

The site has been repurposed several times, and has seen alternate bouts of population and abandonment: first built in the high Middle Ages as the aerie of some local lordling, upon the absorption of Umbria into the Papal States it went on to serve as a military outpost at the confines of rival Tuscany, then as a Barnabite monastery in the 17c, and as a private estate after that.

[image ALT: zzz. It is a millstone at Migianella de' Marchesi, Umbria (central Italy).]

This millstone is said to have been part of an olive press operated by the Barnabites. The blue pen on the left is for scale: it's exactly 14 cm long. What's left of the inscription — (M?)CCCCCXXXXIII — is problematic for me; if I had to guess, the millstone was carved out of materials readily at hand, and the original stone bore the date 1543: but I may be altogether wrong.


[image ALT: CCCCCXXXXIII. It is an inscription on a millstone at Migianella de' Marchesi, Umbria (central Italy).]

When I visited, Migianella was in one of its periodic downturns, deserted and slowly sliding back into ruin. I'm happy to see that someone acted on the same idea that I had when writing that diary entry: the place has since been restored, and handsomely so to judge from the photos online; it may now be partly lived in, but at any rate is used for weddings and other special events. I'm especially glad to see the change in the church in the few years since 2004: we see the top of its belfry below, but it deserves its own page.


[image ALT: A group of rustic old stone farm buildings, mostly two stories tall. It is a view of the castle hamlet of Migianella dei Marchesi near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]


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Page updated: 5 Sep 16