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The History

Discover the origin of the ‘Aquae Patavinae’ and the history of the Euganean thermal area...

 

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Archaeological area of Monte Castello or Berta’s Hill
Montegrotto Terme, from 17th – 12th century B.C. to 19th century A.D.

The remains of a large settlement, in use between the seventeenth and twelfth centuries B.C. (Middle and Late Bronze Age) are located at the southern slopes of Monte Castello. The top of the hill is dominated by the so-called "Tower of Berta", hence the popular name of the height as Berta’s Hill. The tower was built on the "Castle Montagnon", already documented in 1100, which was in turn built on an existing structure from the Roman period.


Storia degli Studi

The information on the Bronze Age village does not derive from systematic excavations, but from casual discoveries. The first dates back to the decade 1960-1970, during agricultural work; substantial recoveries of surfaced material followed in 1971, in 1985 and again in unspecified dates, during plowing and expansion works of the Municipal Cemetery.
The data on the medieval castle are based on written sources and on what was observed in a survey in 2011.


Descrizione

Preistoria e Protostoria

The articulation of the village built on the slopes of Monte Castello is unknown due to the non-systematic type of researches; the presence of an ancient village in the area is, however, certain considering the material findings, such as at least "one beaten earth floor" and numerous objects, including vessel fragments with horned and straight-cylinder handles, terracotta spindle-whorls, flint objects and bronze fragments.
The materials suggest that the settlement may have already been active in the seventeenth and fourteenth centuries B.C. (Middle Bronze Age), and that it flourished between the fourteenth and twelfth centuries B.C. (Recent and Final Bronze Age). Judging from the extension, it had to be a village of great importance. Many of the anomalies identified from remote sensing observations may be the track of activities related to the development of the village.
The location of the village at the base of the hill responds to a specific settlement choice which is typical of those centuries: renouncing in part to the natural defenses, which instead would have been granted by a higher position, the inhabitants could simultaneously exploit the resources of the hill and of the wet plain. In fact the hill slopes offered ample space for cultivation, since the soil was fertile thanks to its volcanic nature; the plain, however, was well suited for the practices of farming, grazing and hay production.

Età romana

The remains of a monumental building made of large square stones that perhaps dates back to Roman times are located on the summit of Monte Castello.

Età medioevale e moderna

The remains of the castle, which are currently visible on the top and along the slopes of the hill, include a walled summit, within which there are a cistern, the foundations of a large building and a second defense line connected to the access door. In the eastern tract, the perimeter wall was built on the remains of a building in squared stones, possibly of roman dating.
The written sources attest that the castle already existed in 1100. It was part of a "feudum", as recalled by a document of the Bishop of Padua dating back to 1116. The presence of a feud refers to the existence of a "curtis", almost to suggest the "fossilization", even in this time, of a settlement and production organization typical of the ninth and tenth centuries.
A 1188 document records the emphyteusis of the castle and its dependencies by the abbot of the monastery of San Silvestro of Nonantola (Modena) to the members of the family "da Montagnon", known since 1038. The Lords da Montagnon were representatives and guardians of the interests of the great abbey of Modena, who was interested in this area of the Venetian plain since Carolingian or Ottonian, or even Langobard times. During that period, the fort was closely linked to the village that had developed at the foot of Monte Castello.
Written sources also provide some detail about the structural characteristics of the castle: in a document of 1277 the commanders of the garrison are commanded to keep continually "three men on each tower"; this indirectly suggests that there was more than one.
Moreover, the castle must have had considerable resistance, if in 1237 it resisted the repeated assaults by the advanced artillery of Ezzelino Romano: it was only thanks to his political complicities that the tyrant was able to gain possession of the castle, which was released in 1256, along with Padua and other fortifications in the area.
The castle of San Pietro Montagnon hill can be considered a typical example of the process of fortification in the territory of the Euganean hills. Unlike in other areas of northern Italy, the Euganean castles have never been fortified villages, but noble residences, more or less stable, which served as occasional refuge places for rural populations of the surrounding settlements. Every castle exercised its jurisdiction over a number of villages, known in medieval documents as "ville"; the jurisdiction of San Pietro Montagnon castle included the areas of the current towns of Montegrotto, Terradura, San Pelagio and Abano.
At the end of the Middle Ages, the castle had to change its function and features: in the code drawn in 1433 by Giovan Francesco Capodilista and containing a repertoire of about sixty castles of the territory of Padua, the "Montagnone" (i.e. the castle of "San Pietro Montagnon", name which used to indicate the area of the Montegrotto Terme located precisely on Monte Castello) is designated as a "fortilitium", which means a strong simple rural house.
In the period between 1675 and 1685, the site became part of the possessions of Alvise Lucadello, "reasoned ducal", which brought together an area of over eighty fields between Monte Alto and Monte Castello with careful estate operations. The Lucadello replaced the castle with a belvedere; later the area was inherited by Daniele Dolfin (1654-1729).
Today the summit of Monte Castello is dominated by the so-called "Tower of Berta", a building which is similar to a castle but dates back to the nineteenth century.

 

Cronologia

Village: XVII – XIV century B.C. (Middle Bronze Age) and flourishing between the XIV and XII centuries B.C. (Late Bronze Age).
Building in squared stones: Roman era.
Castle: from the twelfth to the fifteenth century A.D.
Belvedere Lucadello: XVII – XVIII century.
"Tower of Berta": nineteenth century.

 

Contesto geografico ed urbanistico

The Monte Castello is located at the north-eastern foothills of the Euganean Hills and is separated from the Monte Ceva – Monte Alto group by a narrow little valley. The relief is surrounded by a low plain with strong trend to swamping, fact which caused the activation from the Middle Ages of a complex network of artificial canals.
The Bronze Age village occupied the bottom of the hill, on the connection between the slopes of the height and the plain below. The Roman age building and the Medieval castle with the "Tower of Berta" stood instead on top of the relief.

 

Bibliografia

Le zone archeologiche del Veneto. Elenco delimitazioni ai sensi delle leggi 1/6/1939 n. 1089 e 8/8/1985 n. 431 , Venezia 1987, pp. 41.
Carta Archeologica del Veneto, Vol. III , a cura di L. Capuis, G. Leonardi, S. Pesavento Mattioli, G. Rosada, Modena 1992, pp. 121.
Delle antiche terme di Montegrotto. Sintesi archeologica di un territorio , a cura di S. Bonomi, Montegrotto Terme (PD) 1997, pp. 21-43.
Zerbinati E., Edizione archeologica della Carta d’Italia al 100.000. Foglio 64. Rovigo, Firenze 1982, pp. 89.

 
 

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