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Cavernago (Bergamo, Italy): Castle of Malpaga

Foto Castle of Malpaga
Foto Castle of Malpaga
Foto Castle of Malpaga
Foto Castle of Malpaga
Foto Castle of Malpaga
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Places  of historical value around Milan (Italy): Castle of MalpagaThe Malpaga Castle is located in the small town of Cavernago, a dozen km south of Bergamo and on the left bank of the Serio, and is a very well preserved example of a castle dating back to the fifteenth/sixteenth century, although its origins are the early Middle Ages.
The castle is inextricably linked to Bartolomeo Colleoni, the last of the great fifteenth-century leaders, a person with a long and adventurous life, between the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Venice. However, from 1454 to the end of his life, he was General Captain of the Republic of Venice.
He was not only a military leader, but also a patron and innovator, both in the military and in agriculture and in economic development.

The castle of Malpaga was bought by Colleoni in 1456 and enlarged and embellished in the following three years. To the original fourteenth century core with a classic square plan, a central courtyard, a dovetail battlement and a moat all around, the Colleoni added the portico in the court and an external structure. In addition, outside the castle, the Colleoni built around it a series of houses for his soldiers, also equipped with their own moats, drawbridges and watch towers.
In 1458 the Colleoni settled there, as in a real palace, with his wife Tisbe Martinengo. Here he held court, hosting artists and receiving important personalities of the time.

The castle is richly decorated with frescoes. There are three different types, depending on the era in which they were painted: there are those from the fourteenth century, belonging to the original fortress and now only found in traces. They mainly include geometric patterns.
Then there are the fifteenth-century frescoes, painted when the Colleoni still lived in the castle. Finally there are sixteenth-century and seventeenth-century frescoes, painted by the heirs of Colleoni and in which the deeds of the famous ancestor and of other figures of the family are recalled.
Below a brief description of the main environments of the castle:

  • Entrance Hall: Accessing the castle from the main entrance (originally a drawbridge) leads to the entrance hall, whose walls are decorated with frescoes from the 16th century by Gianbattista Castello. Around the vault that leads to the courtyard there are two female figures with banners, while knights are portrayed on the walls.

  • Courtyard: The frescoes on the walls of the courtyard (large figure), painted by Romanino in the sixteenth century, unfortunately show all the signs of time. On the wall opposite the entrance there is the "Liberation of Bergamo from the Milanese siege". On the left wall (west side, instead) there is the Battle of the Sesia (upper part) and the delivery of the command to the Colleoni by the Doge Pasquale Malipiero in the Basilica of San Marco (lower part).
    On the right-hand side there is an area, in correspondence of the staircase leading to the upper floor, richly decorated with fifteenth-century frescoes and which served as an open chapel (Fig. 3).

  • Portico: On the walls of the portico in front of the entrance to the courtyard are depicted (always works of the 16th century by Romanino) the Battle of Riccardina and, more ruined, the Peace by Paul II, i.e. the peace promoted by Pope Paul II between Florence and Venice in 1468.

  • Banquet Hall: The room is completely decorated with frescoes painted in 1530 by Marcello Fogolino commissioned by the the grandchildren of Colleoni. They recall a memorable event that took place in the castle in 1474. In that year the Colleoni, already very old, welcomed in his castle King Christian I of Denmark passing through on the road to Rome for the jubilee with his extensive retinue. On the walls there are shown the arrival of the king and of his entourage (Fig. 2), the banquet (held in the that same hall), a tournament, a hunt and the departure of King Christian and his retinue.

  • Room of representation (Fig. 4): It is accessed from the staircase next to the chapel. The fifteenth-century frescoes that decorate the walls were painted on the indication of the Colleoni himself. They show scenes of courtly life and refer to the Flemish tapestries of the period. The style is called International Gothic. Worthy of note is the fresco on the wall on the right in the picture, in which Venice is allegorically represented in the robes of the Virgin with her arms to heaven to invoke pity and justice. The two crowned figures on her sides represent Mercy and Justice.

  • Colleoni's Room: It is the room where the Colleoni died in 1475. It has no chimney because it seems that the leader feared that someone could use the chimney to enter and attempt on his life.
    It currently houses torn sixteenth-century frescoes depicting nine allegorical figures symbolizing some virtues. They are attributed to Lattanzio Gambara da Brescia.
    In the west wall there is also a small aedicule containing a small fifteenth-century fresco of a Madonna with child accompanied by Saint Bartolomeo and Saint Ludovico.

  • In the so-called room of Medea (the daughter of Colleoni who died prematurely when she was fifteen years old) there is a wooden ceiling, in which there are numerous tablets depicting animals of various kinds, some real and some mythological(Fig. 5).

  • Lastly, there is the loggia on the first floor. On its walls there are seventeenth-century frescoes depicting, in addition to mountain and marine landscapes, also a naval battle, probably the battle of Lepanto with the participation of a great-grandson of Bartolomeo Colleoni.

The Castle of Malpaga can be visited and is also used as an event location.

Categories: Places of historical value

Piazza Castello (Frazione Malpaga) – 24050 CAVERNAGO (Bg)
Further pictures of Castle of Malpaga in the section Photography
Cavernago (Bergamo, Italy): Frescoed loggia in the Castle of Malpaga
Cavernago (Bergamo, Italy): Fresco of women with banners in the entrance hall of the Castle of Malpaga
Cavernago (Bergamo, Italy): Court of the Castle of Malpaga
Cavernago (Bergamo, Italy): Arrival of King Christian of Denmark at the Castle of Malpaga
Cavernago (Bergamo, Italy): Detail of the ceiling of the room of Medea in the Castle of Malpaga
Cavernago (Bergamo, Italy): Door in the court of the Castle of Malpaga
Cavernago (Bergamo, Italy): Chapel of the Castle of Malpaga
Cavernago (Bergamo, Italy): Fresco in the Malpaga Castle depicting a tournament
Cavernago (Bergamo, Italy): Window in the court of the Malpaga Castle
Cavernago (Bergamo, Italy): Door surrounded by frescoes in the court of the Malpaga Castle