On the right bank of the Sovara stream, perched on the summit of a steep hill not far from Anghiari, stands majestically the Castle of Montauto, for centuries an impregnable stronghold linked to the figure of the noble Counts Barbolani, who are still its owners. The name Montauto emphasizes its characteristic hill (Monte Acuto – Sharp Mountain), similar to a peak and recognizable even from a distance.
The castle was built towards the end of the 12th century on the ruins of a pre-existing watchtower and was located to guard an important road junction that allowed access to the Via Major and from there to the Adriatic Sea.
In the 13th century, Montauto hosted Saint Francis of Assisi several times during his pilgrimages to La Verna, and it was here that the Saint also stopped during his last journey to Assisi after receiving the Stigmata on the SacredMount of La Verna.
Francis was welcomed by Count Albert, lord of the castle, who gave him all the attention you would reserve for a brotherly friend. Before his departure, the count proposed to Saint Francis to leave his habit there, now worn out and totally unsuitable for the coming winter, in exchange for a new one. The Saint agreed, and so that habit, which Francis wore on the day he received the stigmata, remained in the custody of the counts of Montauto, who jealously preserved it until 1503, when the Florentines conquered the castle and demanded the Holy Relic.
After nearly five centuries, following a restoration carried out in the 1980s by the Opificio delle Pietre dure of Florence, the habit finally returned to La Verna, where it is still displayed on the altar of the Chapel of Relics.
The oldest and best-preserved architectural elements of the castle are the mighty cylindrical scarp corner tower, attributed to architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini, and the central courtyard.
In the 16th century, Count Federigo restored the entire Montauto complex in Renaissance forms, of which an elegant loggia and the palatine chapel of San Francesco are part, while the feudal prisons are still preserved in the basement of the castle.
The manor is still owned by the Barbolani family of Montauto and therefore cannot be visited freely inside.
A visit to the Castle of Montauto is like a plunge into the past among history, art and faith.
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