Asti’s Red Tower: from prison to bell tower
Folk tradition has it that Saint Secundus was imprisoned in the Red Tower (Torre Rossa), one of the oldest monuments in Asti, Piedmont. The young aristocrat had belonged to the Roman militia, but converted to Catholicism and was martyrized in 119 AD.
Indeed, under Emperor Hadrian a prison had been built inside the base of the magnificent Tower: the bottom part of the building – also known as Roman Tower, Tower of Saint Secundus, or Tower of Saint Catherine – is the oldest, while the upper part dates back only to the 11th century.
According to legend, Secundus went to the confined space of the structure’s foundations to visit and take the Eucharist to Calogero, another Roman soldier who had been imprisoned for his Christian faith. He was probably aware of the risk he was taking, and indeed soon after was captured and decapitated “in odium fidei” near the city walls.
In the centuries to come, the Red Tower – which was probably one of the two towers at the door to the city at first – was transformed into a bell tower: first for a church dedicated to the city’s patron, Saint Secundus (which has since disappeared), then in the 18th century for the present church of Saint Catherine of Alessandria.