Castel Del Monte, in the province of Andria, Apulia, is synonymous with mystery. A mystery that stems first and foremost from precision, because as Jean Cocteau explained, “Mystery exists only in precise things.”
There are many elements of precision that form the structure of this building, and almost all of them are linked to symbolisms. The number eight recurs obsessively. There are eight sides in the octagonal plans of the building and of the courtyard, eight towers and eight inner rooms – each one an example of perfect geometry –, and eight leaves of various plants can be seen on the capitals and keystones…
Even the way shadows are cast on the walls is the result of meticulous measurements and calculations that took into account the position of the sun during the equinoxes and solstices.
There is an endless bibliography dedicated the analysis of this majestic building. It was commissioned by Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen – who a contemporary chronicler called ‘stupor mundi’ (“wonder of the world”) – and built around 1240 near a church that no longer exists, Sancta Maria de Monte. However, many questions have not been answered yet, including the one about the castle’s exact purpose. Some have suggested it was a fortress, others a hunting lodge, others a temple of knowledge, or even a “wellness center”.
This solitary mystery made of stone has been under the sun for nearly eight centuries. Oscar Wilde was evidently right in observing that “the true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”