The history

From Castrum to Bishop’s Fortress

The history of the Fortress begins at the end of the X Century.
Thanks to its strategic location the Fortress was not only used for military purposes. From the late XV Century, the Malatesta family and the bishops of Bertinoro turned the Fortress into a cultural hub. Domenico Novello Malatesta moved here part of what then became the world-famous San Francesco library (currently in Cesena). Subsequently the bishops, according to the decisions made during the Council of Trent, used the Fortress as a place to promote education and culture. The history of the Fortress, from castrum into bishop residence and later academic center, can be summarized in the following dates:

  • 995 – The most ancient document about the Fortress dates back to this year. On November 27th the most important noble families of the region meet in castro Cesubeo the representatives of the bishop of Ravenna to decide the feudal rights of Celincordia (near Cesena). At that time, the Fortress was a stone building with a central tower.
  • 1004 – The archbishop of Ravenna gives feudal rights to Ugo degli Onesti, first Count of Bertinoro. The counts of Bertinoro will reign until the end of the XII 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 free, thanks to Aldruda Frangipane’s help. The countess is celebrated in the book “De Obsidione civitatis Anconae” by Boncompagno da Signa, from Bologna.
  • 1177 – After Aldruda Frangipane’s death and the Treaty of Venice, the Fortress of Bertinoro goes under the reign of the emperor Frederick I Barbarossa.
  • 1218 – Guido del Duca, judge of the free municipality of Bertinoro, builds the Ring Column of Hospitality.
  • 1278 – The reign of Swambia slowly comes to an end: Bertinoro is under the influence of the Papal State. The Fortress of Bertinoro houses the delegates who will govern the region.
  • 1357 – The Fortress becomes the headquarters of cardinal Egidio Albornoz, who wants to reconquer the region.
  • 1361 – After Forlimpopoli is partially destructed, cardinal Albornoz sets his residence in Bertinoro, making it the new bishop’s location.
  • 1379 – The Fortress is under the reign of the Malatesta family from Rimini.
  • 1450 – Domenico Novello Malatesta moves to Bertinoro part of the books kept at the St. Francis monastery (the future Malatestian library of Cesena).
  • 1497 – A lightening hits the tower which exploded and falls into the water tank. For over a century, the Fortress is abandoned and becomes a quarry of building materials.
  • 1584 – Giovanni Caligari, bishop of Bertinoro, renovates the Fortress. Pope Gregory XIII gives him the right to live there. In 1598, pope Clement VIII extends the same right to the all his successors. The Fortress becomes Bertinoro Bishop’s residence until 1986
  • 1613 – The painter Corradino Romano completes the frescoes in the Bishop’s dining room (currently the Fresco Room).
  • 1642 – The Bishop Isidoro della Robbia funds the Benigni’s Academy.
  • 1969 – Mons. Giuseppe Bonacini dies. He is the last Bishop of Bertinoro to live in the Fortress.
  • 1986 – The bishopric of Forlì-Bertinoro is created. Bertinoro’s Fortress loses its status of bishop’s residence.
  • 1997 – The Fortress is given to the University of Bologna on a free loan for 50 years
  • 2000 – The restoration works are completed: the Fortress officially becomes the Residential University Centre of Bertinoro.

The current look of the Fortress was designed by Giovanni Andrea Caligari at the end of the XVI century. Only the buttress on the northern wall dates back from the Malatesta period: it was built with a strong earthwork meant, to defend the Castle from fire weapons attacks.
Inside the Fresco Room a white rose on a blue background pays homage to Domenico Novello and his wife Violante da Montefeltro, as it symbolizes the coat of arms of the Malatestian cadet branch.
The few frescoes still visible inside the Frangipane room represent the theological and cardinal virtues. The Saints’ lives cycle was painted by Corradino Romano in 1613 during the late years of Caligari’s episcopate.
The medieval defensive structure is still visible in the Ghibellin merlons, included in the building during the renovation works of the late 1500s.

The restoration

The creation of the University Residential Center of Bertinoro is connected to the expansion of the University of Bologna in the Romagna area, which began in 1998. After the opening of the courses of studies in the cities of Forlì and Cesena, the University of Bologna needed a new place to hold its summer schools.
The new structure had to offer:
full immersion facilities to the participants: an easily accessible place that was close to a downtown;
a prestigious historical and architectonical building;
training facilities as well as room and board.
The Fortress and the Former Seminary could meet all these requirements. After being Bishop’s residence in 1584, the Castle and the Rivellino building were now in complete deterioration. Thanks to Senator Leonardo Melandri, who strongly wanted to delocalize the University of Bologna in Romagna, local and national financial supporters of the projects were found and the Fortress came back to its splendor, turning into one of the most important monumental complex of the Region.
The Castle restoration went hand in hand with Ce.U.B. expansion:

  • 1991 – The Municipality of Bertinoro financially supports the restoration project of the Rivellino, aimed at hosting programs of Advanced Training and Education.
  • 1994 – On June 6th, the University Residential Centre (Ce.U.B.) starts its activity. At the end of the year, it will count 3900 guests.
  • 1997 – Given Ce.U.B.’s fast growth, on April 28th the Diocese of Forlì-Bertinoro grants the Fortress on a free loan to the University of Bologna for the next 50 years.
  • 1998 – The renovation works of the Castle begin: the first floor will host training spaces, while the second and third floors are occupied by guestrooms.
  • 2000 – The Castle restoration is completed: Ce.U.B. has now doubled its training spaces and extended the computer lab. The ancient dungeons are also renovated and will soon host the Interfaith Museum.
  • 2002 – “Europa Nostra”, the European Cultural Heritage Association, awards Ce.U.B. with the golden medal for best Italian restoration of one historical area. Ce.U.B. counts over 20,000 guests.
  • 2003 – The former Seminary goes under renovation to increase the number of guestrooms.
  • 2009 – Ce.U.B. counts 30,000 guests.
  • 2010 – The Church of St. Sylvester Church is open, next to the former Seminary.
  • 2011 – Ce.U.B. now manages the Theatre “E. Novelli”, further extending its training facilities.