• Davide Ferraris

The Fort of Gavi

The origins of the Fort of Gavi, although shrouded in legend, are undoubtedly very ancient: this is demonstrated by the fact that the first official document in which it is cited is a deed of sale dating back to 973 AD

Two centuries later, in 1191, Henry VI, son of Frederick I the Barbarossa, donated the castle and the village of Gavi as a fief to the Republic of Genoa.

From this moment, with the exception of a few brief periods during which it was controlled by the Visconti, Fregoso, Sforza and Guasco di Francavilla families, the fortification will remain almost continuously Genoese until 1815 when, after the fall of Napoleon, Genoa with all the his possessions was annexed to the Savoy kingdom.

The life of the fort, initially governed by a castellan and subsequently by a commissioner, is marked by a succession of interventions aimed at making the fortification that guarded the road that led from Genoa to Monferrato and Lombardy to be impregnable.

The first significant reinforcement works date back to 1540 and are to be connected to the architect Giovanni Maria Olgiati, who was already responsible for the renovation of the bridge over the Lemme stream and the walls of Gavi.

In 1625 Gavi and the castle were conquered by the army of the Duke of Savoy Carlo Emanuele I who, wishing to obtain an outlet to the sea, had declared war on Genoa in an attempt to obtain the Marquisate of Zuccarello.

The Genoese counteroffensive allowed the Ligurian Republic to reconquer Gavi but also made it clear that it needed to intervene incisively on the structure of the fort.

The task of transforming the castle into a fortress was entrusted to Father Vincenzo da Fiorenzuola, Gaspare Maculano, a Dominican friar known not only for his expertise in the field of military architecture but also for his inquisitorial activity in Pavia, Genoa and Rome , as well as for having held the office of Commissioner of the Holy Office and for having taken part in the trial against Galileo Galilei.

Assisted by Sebastiano Ponsello and Bartolomeo Bianco, Fiorenzuola created the project for the new structure and, in 1626, began the work.

The new fortress, which at least in its main parts is completed in 1629, triples the available spaces with respect to the previous castle and the number of bastions, radially developed around the central Torre del Maschio, goes from two to six.

The curtains and ramparts, with the exception of the "della Mezzaluna", are identified with the names of some saints, among which are San Bernardo and San Giovanni Battista, patron saints of Genoa together with San Lorenzo and San Giorgio.

In the eighteenth century, interventions aimed at creating powder magazines, cisterns and lodgings for soldiers followed one another.

In the same period Giovanni Morettini created a garrison to defend the access road to the fort (Ridotta di Monte Moro), now used as a private residence.

In 1859 by the will of King Vittorio Emanuele II the fortress was disarmed and, after a series of structural modifications, it housed a first civil prison and later, during the two world conflicts, military.

Since 1946 the Fort of Gavi has been entrusted to the management of the Superintendency for Architectural and Landscape Heritage of Piedmont.


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