HISTORICAL REMARKS ON THE CASTLE
Castel Rubello is situated on a hillock, a few kilometres south of Orvieto, close to Porano.
Its construction stems from traffic-control reasons, as the castle overlooks the ancient Via Cassia, which was therefore dominated by its walls and, in particular, by its main 40-metre-high tower, the so-called "Maschio".
There are no certain dates related to its foundation, due to its name changing throughout the time and to the lack of archive documents, before 1200;
however, judging by the state of the walls as well as by its architectural elements, it can be approximately estimated that the castle dates back to the 12th century.
In the "Piviere di San Fortunato" (an old version of the current land register), Carpenter (pg 6 and on) individuated, with absolute certainty, the original chore of
"Villa Podii", which is nowadays a tiny, enclosed village, together with "Villa Porrani" and "Villa Canale".
The same structure can also be found under the name of Castel Ribello (as Ceccarelli called it, pg. 18) as well as in the 1297 parish land register, with reference to the tithe payments (Sella, pgs 801-916).
Later on, the Castle became a possession of the Monaldeschi family, who took refuge there in 1345, before gaining the entrance to the city of Orvieto, of which they previously were the Lords (Fumi, 1884, pg. 501). The Castle remained a shelter for exiles until 1420, when the Pope Martino V allowed special privileges to the inhabitants of Castel Rubello and Porano, including the exemption from paying the " heads and acres tax, as a reward for the damages suffered under the war" (Fumi, 1884, pg. 677).
The Monaldeschi family re-gained possession of Orvieto in 1437, thanks to Gentile della Sala (Gentile Monaldeschi della Vipera) who, in agreement with Pietro Ramponi, the Civical Rector of the Patrimony, entered in in Orvieto with Ugolino da Montemarte, Ranuccio da Castel di Piero as well as other "Mercorini", slaughtering the members of the opposing faction, the "Muffati". As a result of this battle, over 60 people died and numerous houses were burnt.
Many "Muffati" managed to survive by taking shelter in Castel Rubello, whose constable had been Francesco da Bologna, since 1422, a mercenary captain belonging to the "Muffati" faction, hence at the service of the Church. For record purposes, Francesco da Bologna negotiated the Pope's betrayal with Gentile Monaldeschi della Vipera, who was, at the time, one of Francesco Sforza's emissaries (b. 1400, d. 1465, a very powerful and popular troop leader and an implacable enemy of the Papacy; amongst his various roles, he also became the Duke of Milan). In 1439, della Vipera reached Castel Rubello, with 400 foot soldiers, unaware of Francesco da Bologna's imminent betrayal; he was captured and imprisoned; 36 of his soldiers were killed in the battle. Once freed in return of his treachery, della Vipera offered his services to the Papacy, but, as a traitor, he plotted in favour of the Ghibellini, who were hostile to the Pope. In February of the following year, his plot was discovered and he first was locked up in the Assisi quarterdeck, with Francesco da Carnaiola and, subsequently, incarcerated in Perugia. He was freed with Carnaiola in June, thanks to his brother's offer of Orvieto, including Castel Rubello, to the State of the Church, in return of 2000 florins worth of compensation (www.condottieridiventura.com).
Towards the end of 1400, the castle was hard-fought by various noble families, in particular the Della Rovere and the Valenti (Tommaso di Silvestro, pgs 106 and on). In 1497, Giovanni Savelli, Lord of Rignano, Flaminio and Benano, exploited Castel Rubello as a strategical base to attack the near Castel Giorgio, home of Giorgio della Rovere, who was the Bishop of Orvieto's nephew. Assaulted by 400 foot soldiers, Castel Giorgio was conquered, destroyed and the lord of the castle was chained and dragged to Castel Rubello. Brandolino Valenti, acting on behalf of the Bishop, easily obtained the release of the prisoner, as well as the handing over of Castel Rubello, in return of a consistent ransom. The Valenti family resided in Castel Rubello from 1519 to the 18th century, after having married into the Avveduti, Lords of Porano, who had dwelled in the castle at the beginning of the 15th century (Fumi, 1888).
The Valenti family restructured the castle, by turning it into a villa. Giacomo Valenti, who was amongst the judges of the great "couple joust" of the Orvieto carnival, in 1542 (Satolli, 1986, pg 157), repaired a portion of the palace, also by assigning the making of some remarkable frescos to the popular Umbrian painter Cesare Nebbia (b. 1535, d. 1614). The culminating point was the construction of a monumental fireplace, in 1541.
His son Federico, together with his wife Lucrezia Ottieri, concluded the restoration, as from 1587, by renovating another wing of the building, which he used as his own abode, and having it decorated with frescos, which have recently been ascribed to Lombardelli (Satolli, 1987, pgs 66-68).
In the 18th century, the castle was owned first by the Salvatori family, then by the Marini, whose last heiress, Emma, married in 1892 the Marques Nicola Serafini Trinci, whose direct successors are still the proprietors of the Castle.
Unfortunately, in 1944, the allied troupes shelled two of the smallest towers, perhaps as a way to discourage attempts of sharp-shooting. Which, since then, were not rebuilt anymore.
Our thanks go to Professor Architect Alberto Satolli, for his valuable contribution in the gathering of the historical and architectonic information related to the Castle.
THE CHURCH OF SAN GIOVANNI BATTISTA IN CASTEL RUBELLO
The Latin inscription on the memorial stone affixed in 1886 on the entrance door on the church façade roughly summarises the history of this building, by providing reliable information (Ex memoriis authographis), to partially trace its origins back. The first piece of information refers to both the ancient foundation of the church, which has not been documented (templum hoc cuius origo incerta est sed vetusta), and to the original shape of the former construction (cuius pristina forma brevis et gothica).
The remains of a section of the external walls, built and expanded curtain wise on the original, nicely-worked tuff, as well as the existence of some old openings, including a typical pointed- arched-mullioned window with one light, imply that the former church was of a smaller size and that it stretched across an orthogonal axis, compared to the present construction, whose apse is oriented towards north east, where Orvieto is located. Because of the lack of archive documents, the only way to determine the approximate dating of the former construction is to survey the walls and the architectonic details. By applying this method, it can be reckoned that the former construction dates back to the 14th century.
The second piece of information refers to the first radical intervention, which was performed towards the end of 1500 (quasi ex integro renovatum et ampliatum paulo post annum domini 1597). It consisted of both the 90° rotation of the axis and the modification of the original construction plan, from a simple apsidal room to a new one, included within the space of the Latin cross, through a gap, where it can still be found a late-mannerist fresco, representing the Crucifixion of Christ, which faces the old apse.
This change entailed an extension of the church boundaries, and it can surely be related to the persitent modifications carried out by Giacomo Valenti, also within the residential building. Valenti's constant efforts, supported by his wife, still linger all over the construction. On the foot of one of the holy water stoups, made of red stone, it is depicted the bipartite coat of arms of the two Valenti/Ottieri noble families, with the inscription "Federico Valenti Et Lucrethia Otheria Conivges ...1593". Furthermore, a canvas, which is now on the high altar, represents the wedding banquet, including the bride and groom's portraits; this work is a clear iconographic and formal reference to the altarpiece of Cana's wedding, which Cesare Nebbia painted for a chapel of Orvieto's Duomo (Satolli, 1987, p. 75).
It could be quite possible that the canvas of Castel Rubello is one of Nebbia's works as, in 1597, just before dying, Federico Valenti expressed, in his will, the desire to be buried in the Church of San Giovanni Battista, in a grave within a chapel, built under the supervision of his wife. This chapel should have been similar to the one in Orvieto's cathedral, which epitomizes, once again, Valenti's clear attempt to show his artistic sensitivity as well as his appreciation of the artists of his time. Unfortunately, in 1598 Lucrezia Ottieri died, too, leaving a number of projects unfinished, to such an extent that in 1606, when the Bishop of Orvieto, Giacomo Sannesio, paid his pastoral visit the Church "S. ti Joaannis quae parochialis est extra Castrum Rubellum", he pointed out that the high altar (in aliqua parte fractum) had to be restored, and the altar belonging to the Oratory of the Sacramento of the Confraternity of Christ's Body, which stood opposite the high altar, had to be transferred. He also stated that all the walls of the Church needed cleaning and repainting.
It is possible that some maintenance work were carried out. However, a century later, on the 15th and 16th of May 1722, when the Bishop Onofrio Elisei paid his visit to the church, he ordered the restoration of the chapel's floor, with the Altar of the SS. Rosario, as well as the erection of a cross on the façade. He also instructed for the whole church to be cleaned and tidied (reaptari in suis partibus et dealabari). The additional information contained in the lapidary inscription refer to the consecration of the Church, in 1742, as well as to the demolition of the high altar (demolitum et ad meliorem forman reductum), which was subsequently consecrated in 1802. In addition, the date of the memorial stone coincides with the last phase of the restoration of the inside of the church, where the traces of the various alterations are still visible, as in the case of the stucco altar, in the back of the old apse, with its stucco-decorated arch, leading to the chapel, surmounted by the puttos, propping up the coat of arm, or the marble funeral monument, dedicated to Liborio Salvatori da Caprarola, situated next to the chapel (1866).
Later on, the outside of the church was restored, from the entrance door (J.M. Fecit, 1893) to the stairs. Furthermore, starting from 1906, while re-building the walls of the castle, together with the doorway leading to the village and the neo-gothic reconstruction of the corbels and the tower adjacent to the rectory, the neo-classic bell-tower was erected.
This is how the architectonic eclecticism of the first years of the 20th century overlapped Abraam Teerlink's romantic memories of Castel Rubello, written while the Dutch landscapist wandered around this area, in the early 1800.
The history of the church is thoroughly taken from one of the Architect ALBERTO Satolli's publications.