Fortifications and castles


Military works : construction techniques

One of the main characteristics of the Molisian fortifications is the adaptation to the territory on which they rise and the use of local materials: stones (mainly calcareous but also sandstone) from quarries located not far from the castle itself, timber (oak and chestnut) from the woods that abound in the region, sand from the numerous watercourses, bricks and mortar made of local products. Fortifications erected under pressing conditions in response to an immediate danger were occasionally built using lower quality materials found directly on site; sections of castles were often built with used materials taken from pre-existing monuments. From this point of view Molisian military architecture bears witness to a building history that shows interesting results despite being based on construction materials and dressing procedures that were not always of the highest level. The organisation of the building yard of a castle or Medieval church undoubtedly required the presence of a few specialised craftsmen (in the 12th century a guild of stonecutters was established in S.Maria di Guglieto), as well as unskilled labour.
An atlas of the stonemasonry of Molisian castles displays a limited number of patterns repeated on a large scale with few modifications. Construction materials often consisted of rough-cut stones, sometimes scabbled, while the use of finely dressed elements was unusual (for cornerstones, edges and the rare ornamental elements). A peculiar aspect is the gradual tapering off of walls towards the top, with corbels used to support
floor cross beams or other structures. The ground floor was often covered with a vaulted structure of stone, while wooden structures were more frequently used for the upper floors. The vertical connections were made with wooden stairs or stone staircases cut into the walls. The main entrance was commonly located on the first floor for security reasons (the ground floor and basement, which housed the storerooms and the cistern, could be accessed from the inside) and could be reached through a removable gangway.
The incorporation of rocky outcrops in the wall structures and the use of wooden bars to reinforce the masonry represent singular construction solutions. The greater attention dedicated in recent studies to construction materials and procedures opens new horizons in our knowledge of the history of fortifications. The most important are those associated with the period when structures based mostly on the use of timber (traces of an ancient palisade have been found at the Tufara castle) were gradually replaced by stone constructions.