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The castle of Castelsardo: from the Doria family to the Piedmontese dominion

For all Sardinians, and for tourists who every year get struck by the breathtaking view of the fortified castle overlooking the promontory, is Castelsardo, but this is just the last of the names the village took over the centuries.

We know that in the Christian era, the first inhabitants were some religious, probably the Antonian hermits who gathered around the hermitage of Sant’Antonio Abate.

panorama from castelsardo castle
Photo credit: Francesca Spagnoletti

In 1101 the Doria arrived and settled in the promontory. They were a powerful Genoese family that gave the first name to the inhabited center: Castel Genovese.

The castle of Castelsardo was built by the Maritime Republic of Genoa and entrusted to the care of the Doria family who, from this privileged position, could directly control the maritime trade along the Mediterranean route, up to Genoa.

Castel Genovese was an ancient free communal republic, a real exception in the Sardinian panorama: not only were the people sovereign, but they also had their own code of laws known as the “Statutes of Galeotto Doria”.

The structure of the castle: walls and “quarter”

The structure of Castel Genovese consisted of an imposing “city wall”, the “district” that was simply called Castle, the “city palace”, the “palace of Nicolò”, the church of Santa Maria.

Even if today it is no longer possible to see the defensive towers, on the whole, the castle is in an excellent state of preservation and houses the Museum of the Mediterranean Interweaving.

Photo credit: Francesca Spagnoletti

Some illustrious tenants: Eleonora d’Arborea and Brancaleone Doria

For about six years, from 1376 to 1382, Brancaleone Doria and Eleonora d’Arborea, his wife, lived in Castel Genovese, with their children Mariano and Federico, future judges of the Giudicato di Arborea.

With the killing of her brother and parents by the Aragonese Crown, Eleonora took over the reins of the Giudicato and defended Sardinia from the Aragonese attackers.

In 1448, however, Castel Genovese passed into the hands of the winners and took on a new name: Castel Aragonese.

Photo credit: Francesca Spagnoletti

If the castle of the Doria family is still in excellent condition is also thanks to the Aragonese who continuously restructured it to ensure the most effective defensive structure in Sardinia, essential for maritime traffic with Spain.

Under the Aragonese dominion, Castelsardo flourished even more and became an Episcopal city in 1503: its importance grew and this is testified by the paintings of the Master of Castelsardo that enrich the altars.

Read more posts about the Castles of Sardinia

Finally, in 1769, during the Piedmontese dominion, Castel Aragonese changed its name again and became Castelsardo.

The new name seems to suggest an official recognition of the importance of the town but, soon after, its status was downgraded by the Piedmontese to “stronghold of the kingdom” in 1861.

No longer “Illustre y magnifica Ciudad” as it was defined by the Aragonese, but a strategic point of defense of the kingdom.

Castelsardo then flourished again over the centuries: today it is a crossroads of craftsmanship, cuisine and the cradle of centuries-old traditions. Have you ever been there?