The general foundation of the new Hispanic-imperial order, after the final defeat of the French army of Launtrec and the peace talks between Charles V and Clemente IIV, besides being fatal for the republican aspirations of the Florentines, in defence of what Michelangelo uselessly praised his genius as military architect, it also marked the final decline of the ancient autonomy of L’Aquila, a city which up till then was among the most prosperous in the Reign of Naples.
In February 1529, while Michelangelo, who was called to take part in the “nove della Milizia” (the nine of the militia), started to modernize and reinforce the walls in Florence, the city of Abruzzi was occupied by the military of the “lanzi” of Filiberto d’Orange who was the viceroy and deputy general of the Region of Naples. He came personally to punish it for opening its door, some month earlier, to the French and for rebelling against the imperial garrison which protected it.
The difficult repression did not spare the treasures of the church. They were melted to pay for excessive “talions” which were imposed as a redemption for the threatened ransacking.
Neither were the old privileges and immunity of the municipality spared. Its vast countryside was separated from the city and subjugated by captains of the imperial army.
The massive “castelina” which had been built by Orange on the highest part of the castle wall, “to protect and refrain the citizens”, was the tangible and oppressive symbol of the new conditions of the (servitù) servitude which by that time gave the city a role which was economically modest and politically marginal.
This city had to bear these overbearing difficult impositions without the possibility to reply or withstand. The overwhelming atmosphere of the military occupation, characterized by the continuous threats to plunder the city, to the terrorist intimidations to the hostages, to the quartering and to the hangings of the “rebels” in the square.
In August 1530, the prince “hated by the people of L’Aquila”, died while he besieged Florence.
He was hit by a harquebus shot in Gavinana.
They say that a footsoldier from L’Aquila, who was enlisted in the Ferrucci troops, fired the fatal shot.
Completed in a few months, in June 1530 it already hosted the lord of the castle and the garrison.
The fortalice of the Orange was completely destroyed a few years later, when the formidable Castle, which still stands today, was built in its place.
Il Castello Spagnolo dell’Aquila (The Spanish Castle of L’Aquila) is one of the most grandious and best preserved accomplishments of the military architecture on Italian modern land.
The constructional events and the same architectural features of the huge fortress make up an exemplary historical testimony of the turbulent years of the horrible wars of Italy, a period of profound and dramatic transformations, in the political structure of the peninsula as well as in the art of war and fortifications while substantial part of Italian territory fell under the direct Spanish dominations, the internal political and social equilibrium changed deeply at various conditions and the traditional spaces were drastically reduced in the city’s autonomy; others significant changes were verified in the wartime technological field, with the use of the cannonball artillery. It was finally forced to overcome the secular medieval typology of the fortifications.
The Castle made up one of the principal strongholds of the reinforcement plans of the reign of Naples carried out by the Viceroy don Pedro de Toledo in 1532.
The enormous expense for the construction was inexcusably charged to the city, to punish the population for the revolt which bursted out on 31st December 1528 and which was suppressed in the following February by Filiberto d’Orange’ s troops.
In 1534 Toledo granted Perro Luis Escrivà, the captain of the imperial army, the commission to design and manage the work .Even if he had not had the possibility to carry out any important work up till then, he already had a reputation as a “great architect, and very skilled in fortifications”.
He was born into a nobile family from Valencia in about 1490.
Since his childhood he had a military education and he studied the Arts and philosophy.
Escrivà was very young when he entered the order of chivalry of St. John of Jerusalem. He supported the fight against the expansionism of the Ottavian Empire and enumerated “the most expert castle builders of the Mediterranean region”.
On the pages of the Apologia, a treaty written in 1538 in a dialogue form to respond to the critics of the same slanderes, referring to the art of constructing and defending fortresses, Escrivà states: “cierto no ha menos de trenta años que ando por el mundo errando tras esta facultad, si bien há pocos que la uso”. In his long apprenticeship as a military architect the teachings and examples of Gabriele Tadino da Martinengo, his brother in the order of St. John of Jerusalem had certainly had a particular importance.
The Edificio militar was dedicated to him, a treaty of military architecture which remained unpublished and those of Francesco Maria della Rovere duca of Urbino, to whom Escrivà dedicated another one of his works, the Veneris Tribunal, published in Venice in 1537.
His work experience, which began in Spain during the revolt of the comuneros, was enriched during the recent conflict between Carlo V and the Lega di Cognac: from the Apologia we come to learn infact, that in 1528 he participated in the defence of Naples against the siege of Lautrec.
The commission, which he was granted by the Viceroy Toledo, offered him the opportunity to put into practice his knowledge of the Arts, philosophy and geometric-mathematics no less than the acquisitions of his long military training and castle building.
The designing task could have been carried out in complete freedom, without being conditioned by the existing constructions which were to be encorporated or reutilized in the new fortress, nor did the characteristics of the land impose unavoidable solutions.
The long evolution of the medieval castle to the modern fortress was carried out by well-known architects such as Baccio Pontelli, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and the Sangallo. At the same time the creators of an exceptional technical progress and a transformation of aesthetic standards which had never been seen before then.
Consciously entering this tradition which was completely Italian, Escrivà, Spanish by birth and soldier by profession, however acquainted with the cultural climate of the Renaissance, authentic “caballero humanista” , wanted to characterize his extraordinary war machine to the criteria of symmetry and to the regularity of the proportions based on mathematic laws.
In the period in which it was built il Castello Spagnolo dell’Aquila “the Spanish Castle of L’Aquila” constituted the most advanced result of the new military architecture.
Thanks to the sacrifices of the city, which was forced to take on most of the buildings expenses, the modern science of the fortifications and the aesthetic plannings of the designer were carried out in the most accomplished way, with a rare coherence and rationality.
The technical solutions adopted by Escrivà are the result of the conscious prefiguration of the potential wartime by a possible invading army and a careful evaluation of all the possibilities offered by the modern siege strategies. He tried to oppose an efficient defence device to every offence threat.
Escrivà personally ran the work up to 1535; he then returned to Naples and had the opportunity to meet the Emperor who had come to visit the city after the victory of Tunis.
On the hill of S. Martino they discussed “la forma de la fortification que… en aquel lugar se convenia”.
After obtaining the prestigious commission of the reconstruction of the old Angevin castle of Sant’Elmo, which dominated the city from the top of the hill, he gave up running the construction site of L’Aquila personally and went back to the city only for a short period, at the end of the following year.
The work was carried out for the most part over a twenty year period, even if only in 1567 the city was relieved of its heavy taxes which were imposed on it for the construction. In that year the first part of the construction phase ended.
During the same year the part of the fortification linked to the military was carried out.
It was made up of the four powerful bastions on a pentagonal plan, the four strong barrages, the moat and an external terreplain.The elegant double order arcade originally foreseen for the entire length of the perimeter of the internal courtyard was instead limited only to the south –eastern wing.