The majestic Forte Spagnolo, also known as Castello Cinquecentesco, is a castle in L’Aquila, Abruzzo. It is a classic example of military architecture but was never used in battle, and became instead the residence of the Spanish governor in the 17th century, later housing French soldiers in the 1800s and German troops during the Second World War occupation.
Built in the first half of the 1500s, the fortress is similar to the Castles of Barletta and Copertino in structure. Its square floor plan features imposing bastions with the typical “spearhead” shape, so solid they could resist any attack to the central structure. The bastions face the four Cardinal points and were equipped with independent tanks for water supply.
Inside each one were “casematte” – fortified emplacements built to protect both men and artillery – and “contromine” – tunnels that went down to the structure’s foundations, which could be used to block the enemy’s mines.
The fortress’s highlight is its large portal, surmounted by a two-headed eagle that symbolized the House of Austria and the inscription “Ad reprimendam audaciam aquilanorum”.
The dungeons of the castle are also particularly interesting, and were used as prisons for a long time.
The castle was declared a national monument in 1902 and, after extensive restoration in 1951, became home to the Abruzzo’s National museum (MUNDA, Museo Nazionale d’Abruzzo). Inside its halls you can now admire the fossil skeleton of a Mammuthus Meridionalis dating back to 1.3 million years ago, which was found in 1954 in a clay quarry not far from L’Aquila.
Today, the fortress is undergoing further restoration work due to the damages caused by the 2009 earthquake that hit the area.