Just a few kilometers away from Rome Fiumicino Airport, the stunning Julius Castle (Castello di Giulio II) awaits. Located in the Naturalistic Reserve of the Roman Coast and near the large archaeological area of Ostia Antica, the castle reopened to the public on October 26, 2022.
Backgroud of Julius’ Castle
The Castle of Giulius II construction began in 1483, at the behest of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, also known as Pope Julius II (1503-1513). The castle was entrusted to the Florentine architect Baccio Pontelli.
The complex features a perimeter circuit of casemates (fire chambers) that connects three towers, one of which incorporated the tower of Martin V, a ravelin, and a large surrounding moat. The monumental staircase is decorated with polychrome frescoes with the myth of Hercules, attributed to the school of Baldassarre Peruzzi.
For a long time, the fortress served as the seat of the papal customs, where payments for goods arriving in Rome by sea took place. However, the castle faced difficulties early on. Less than a century after its construction, an unprecedented flood led to the displacement of the bed of the river Tiber. The bend on which the castle stood had vanished, and the river had moved a few kilometers away. This marked the end of the castle’s function as a control and customs post along the river and decreed its progressive abandonment. At its darkest moment in history, it became a shelter for livestock and, later, a prison where those sentenced to forced labor were housed. They were the first to bring to light the remains of the Roman city of ancient Ostia.
Why visit Julius Castle today
Today, the Castle of Julius II is one of the cultural sites in the archaeological park of Ancient Ostia. It is very well preserved and remains an amazing example of Renaissance military architecture. The interior of the Castle is also equipped with a small museum that preserves the ancient military and residential structures intact.
When visiting the Castle of Giulius II, a trip to the contiguous village of Ostia Antica is a must. Here, you can find the Church of Sant’Aurea, where Santa Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, died and was buried. The houses in this village are treated in detail, from the color of the plaster to the flowers in the windows.
In summary, the Castle of Giulius II is a historical gem that showcases the best of Renaissance military architecture. With its well-preserved structures and impressive surroundings, this cultural site in the archaeological park of Ancient Ostia is a must-see. Don’t forget to visit the nearby village of Ostia Antica, which is also rich in history and culture.
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