The History

The History

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From Castrum to Bishop’s Fortress

The history of the Bishop’s Fortress starts in the 10th century: in the past it was a sought-after target due its strategic position, but it did not serve only military tasks. Beginning from the second half of the 15th century, thanks to the Malatesta family and later to the bishops of Bertinoro, the Fortress became a cultural hub. On the one hand, the Lord of Cesena Domenico Novello Malatesta moved to the Fortress a part of the future St. Francis library; on the other hand, the bishops, according to the Council of Trent, contributed to promote education and culture in the Fortress. The history of the Fortress, which was a castrum (castle) then a Bishop’s residence and today is part of the University of Bologna, can be summed up like this:

  • 995 – The most ancient document about the Fortress dates back to this year. On November 27, the most important noble families and the representatives of the bishop of Ravenna meet in castro Cesubeo in order to decide the feudal rights of Celicordia. At that time, the Fortress did already have the keep.

  • 1004 – The archbishop of Ravenna gives the feudal right to Ugo degli Onesti from Bertinoro. The Counts of Bertinoro will reign until the end of the 12th century.

  • 1172 – Aldruda Frangipane, countess of Bertinoro, brings her military forces in support of the city of Ancona, which is under siege by the imperial troops guided by the archbishop Cristiano from Mainz. The city of Ancona is freed thanks to the help of Aldruda Frangipane. The countess Aldruda is celebrated in the book De Obsidione civitatis Anconae by Boncompagno from Signa.

  • 1177 – After the death of Aldruda Frangipane and the Treaty of Venice, the Fortress goes under the reign of the emperor Frederick I Barbarossa.

  • 1218 – The judge Guido del Duca ordered to build the Column of Hospitality.

  • 1278 – The reign of Swambia slowly comes to an end, Bertinoro becomes part of the Papal State. The Fortress of Bertinoro hosts the delegates sent to govern the Romagna region.

  • 1357 – The fortress hosts the military units of the cardinal Egidio Albornoz, who wants to conquer the Romagna region back.

  • 1361 - After Forlimpopoli is partially destroyed. Cardinal Albornoz sets his residence in Bertinoro, which becomes the new diocese and a town.

  • 1379 – The fortress is under the reign of the Malatesta family from Rimini.

  • 1450 – Domenico Novello Malatesta moves part of his library and book prodution to the Fortress from the monastery of St. Francis (the future Malatestiana library).

  • 1497 – A lightening hits the powder warehouse which explodes and falls onto the water tank. The fortress is abandoned for over a century and it serves as a construction material quarry.

  • 1584 – Giovanni Caligari starts the renovation works in the fortress and Pope Gregory XIII gives him the right to live there. In 1598, the Pope Clement VIII gives the same right to the following bishops of Bertinoro, until 1986.

  • 1613 – The painter Corradino Romano ends the frescoes in the Bishop’s dining hall (today, the Frescoed Hall).

  • 1642 – The bishop Isidoro della Robbia founds the Benigni’s Academy (in English, the “academy of the kinds”).

  • 1969 – Giuseppe Bonacini dies, he is the last bishop of Bertinoro to live in the Fortress.

  • 1986 – After the creation of the diocese of Forlì-Bertinoro diocese, the Fortress is not the Bishop’s residence anymore

  • 1997 – The Fortress is given to the University of Bologna on free loan for 50 years.

  • 2000 – The renovation works come to an end. The Residential University Centre of Bertinoro opens its doors.



The Fortress that you can see nowadays was built by Giovanni Andrea Caligari at the end of the 16th century. Only the buttress on the Northern wall is original from the Malatesta period, it was built with a strong earthwork meant to defend the fortress when it would be under the siege of fire weapons.
In the Frescoed Hall, the presence of Domenico Novello and his wife Violante da Montefeltro is represented by a white rose on a blue background, which is their coat of arms under the reign of the Malatestas.
In the Frangipane Hall, the few frescoes left represent the theological and the cardinal virtues. The cycle of the Saints’ life was painted by Corradino Romano in 1613 during the late years of the bishop Caligari.
The Ghibellin merlons are the only defensive structure left during the renovation works in the late 16th century.


The renovation works

The idea of the Residential University Centre came up with the delocalization of the University of Bologna, which began in 1998. A few years later the cities of Forlì and Cesena started their own academic degrees, the University of Bologna was looking for a new place to hold its summer schools, since Bagni di Lucca began to be outdated.

The new place ought to have these characteristics:

  • guarantee a full immersion for the future participants; a place easy to be reached (by car, train or plane) and close to the city centre;
  • be a prestigious historical and architectonical place;
  • be a structure that can have place for both teaching spaces and accommodations.



The Bishop’s Fortress and the Former Seminary could meet all these characteristics. After being the Bishop’s residence in 1584, the Castle and the Rivellino were now in complete decay. Thanks to Senator Leonardo Melandri, who had the idea to delocalize the University of Bologna, local and national financial supporters of the projects were found and the Fortress came back to its splendor, becoming one of the most important monumental complex of the Region.

The works of renovation and the beginning of the Ce.U.B. vocational training activity:



  • 1991 – The town of Bertinoro financially supports the renovation project of the Rivellino, which is aimed at hosting Vocational Training programmes.

  • 1994 – June 6, the University Residential Centre (Ce.U.B.) hosts its first international Vocational Training programme. At the end of the year it will count 3900 attendees.

  • 1997 – Since the Ce.U.B. activity develops very quickly, on April 28 the Diocese of Forlì-Cesena gives the Bishop’s Fortress on free loan to the University of Bologna for the next fifty years.

  • 1998 – Beginning of renovation works in the Fortress. The main floor will host the offices, while the second and third floors will host other accommodations.

  • 2000 – End of renovation works in the Fortress. The Ce.U.B. has doubled its teaching spaces and extended its computer lab. The dungeons are renovated too and will be adapted to host the Interfaith Museum.

  • 2002 – Europa Nostra, the European Cultural Heritage Association, awarded the Ce.U.B. with the golden medal for best conservation; the prize marks outstanding achievements in the conservation, enhancement and adaptation to new uses of historical buildings.

  • 2003 – The former seminary goes under renovation works in order to increase the number of accommodations.

  • 2009 – Ce.U.B. counts 30.000 attendees, the best result so far.

  • 2010 – Opening of St. Sylvester church as teaching space, next to the former Seminary.

  • 2011 – Ce.U.B. is in charge of the Theatre “E. Novelli”, which represents the biggest teaching space.