Beccaria Castle - Arena Po

The Beccaria Castle in Arena Po: from a military fortress to a building of historical interest.

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Article description

A powerful single unit body, reinforced by a high tower on the eastern corner, has massive masonry and, on the upper floors, rectangular windows obtained from the pre-existing single-lancet windows. Originally, it probably consisted of a simple palisade reinforced by a ditch and erected to defend modest buildings. The palisade was then replaced by a walled enclosure. The construction of the tower dates back to a very late period. The door, guarding the land towards the south, must have been the access to a drawbridge, while the court would have initially been much lower, sloping down to the bed of the Po. This is located in the northern part of the town, on the right side of the river, at the opposite mouth of the Olona.
The presence of the castle in Arena is detected for the first time in the municipal archives of Piacenza in which it is noted that in 1145, at the beginning of the struggle between the municipalities and the emperor Barbarossa, the Arenesi ceded control of their castle to the municipality of Piacenza. However, the making of the fortress dates back to the 10th century under the ownership of the Monastery of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro or of San Maiolo, a period in which it was built to defend against the Hungarians. The building was at the center of numerous battles and attacks, including naval attacks, from the river. Disputed military objective was the scene of bloody clashes between the Guelphs of Piacenza and the Ghibellines of Pavia, continually fighting.
In 1175 it was destroyed by the armies of the Lombard League who had invaded the Oltrepò Pavese to fight the emperor Barbarossa. Rebuilt, it underwent an exhausting siege in 1216 by the Piacentines of the Lega, but remained in the hands of Pavia whose reinforcement ships were able to approach the castle along its connecting ditches to the river. Other sources confirm that, in that year, "the Milanese with the Piacentini took Parpanese, but had to abandon the siege of Arena due to its extreme resistance".
In 1290, the castle was purchased by Manfredino Beccaria and at the beginning of the 16th century it passed to the influential Milanese families of the Maggi and the Speciani. In 1655 it was occupied by the French supported by the Duke of Modena and then conquered by the Spanish militias of the Marquis of Caracena, Governor of the States of Milan. The Arenese garrison was further strengthened to underline its tactical-strategic position. In 1656 Cardinal Trivulzio, the new Governor, partially destroyed the fortress, which was no longer usable as a military garrison.
In the following century, the castle passed to the Mandellis, a Lombard family dating back to the 11th century.
In 1827, on the death of Marquis Bernardino Mandelli, a well-known philanthropist, in compliance with his will, the castle came to the Civil Hospices of Piacenza who held it for almost half a century, occasionally renting the premises. In the inventory of the Arenese heritage left by the Marquis, the castle is described as a "salt warehouse". In all likelihood, this precious product was deposited there to be sent by river to the Duchy of Milan.
Auctioned by the Hospices, not intent on costly maintenance, in 1877 it was taken over by Fulgenzio Delfitto who won it with a very low bid that saved the castle from demolition. Shortly afterwards it passed to Cavalier Domenico Rossignoli and, on his death, to his son as a rural building. In 1909 it was classified as a building of historical interest and renamed "Beccaria Tower of Arena Po". Finally, in 1918, it was purchased by Pierino Roveda who had the roof removed and a battlements built, subsequently removed by order of the Mayor in 1919.

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