The venerable parish of Santa Barbara nel Regio Castello

The church of Santa Barbara formerly Santa Maria della Pietà had the main entrance situated on the ground floor, under the open gallery which was used by the military at the Forte and by the people. The lord of the castle and his family made use of the privileged access situated on the piano nobil, in the apartment which was reserved for them. The internal staircase of this passage can still be seen in the “sala V”  of the present Museo Nazionale D’Abruzzo.
Baldassarre de Zunica o Zuniga, governor of the Forte from 1606 to 1630, had the staircase decorated with “ tromp l’oeil” on the left wall, with his coat of arms on the opposite wall, with floral and zoomorphic ornamentations on the vault and with geometric motifs on the side walls, the noble weapon, dated 1607, belonging to the lord of the castle Baldassarre de Zunica is also painted inside the church of Santo Cristo or the Crocifisso situated near the Forte and had been built with the alms of the people of L’Aquila by the lord of the castle himself who was buried there by his own testamentary will. Instead the burial of the military and their families took place in the space below the church now the sala Chierici, except for Captain Nicola Ciarpaglini, governor of the Forte from 1781 to 1792,  buried at his will  “prope aram maiorem a latere evangelii” .
The only trace which remains of the original building is the altar niche. The huge stone fireplace was removed from the large hall on the first floor to the former church, after the earthquake in 1703.
The church of Santa  Barbara performed the function of a normal parish of the city, as deduced by the registers of baptisms, marriages and deaths. These records point out the participation in the social life which took place in the Forte, by some of the noble families of L’Aquila such as the Rivera, the Massonio, the Branconio, the Oliva and other eminent personages, who were present as godfathers at baptisms and as witnesses at the weddings of the high officials in service at the castle. On the day of the Corpus Domini a procession took place in the Forte, around the internal square and on the terraces, which were reached by the great staircase of honour.
In the church there was the Compagnia detta di Santa Barbara with the red coloured sacks, which was present only at the processions of the church of Santa Maria Paganica, where the statue of the saint was accompanied by the artillerymen. Once that company was abolished, the duty of taking the statue and bringing it back to the church was entrusted to the confraternity of S. Ludovico or of the Concezione. On the day of Holy Thursday the procession around the internal square always took place inside the Forte.
The royal chaplain, besides his institutional duties, such as supervising the moral conduct of his own filiani, taking care of orphans of the military and especially of  the condemned to punishment, also had the duty of going to four parishes of the city to celebrate the mass in occasion of their festivity (perhaps the churches of Santa Maria Paganica, Santa Maria del Carmelo, S, Filippo Neri. In the canonical registers of these churches there are infact recorded baptisms, marriages and burials of the military of the Forte).      
The parish priests in turn had to restore the liturgical celebration in the chapel of the Forte, on the day of the feast of Santa Barbara, to whom the artillerymen of the castle had  dedicated a poem. The reading of the archival documents, relative to the last sixty years of the 19th century, allow for a reconstruction of the liturgical furnishings and, in particular, the pictorial works that adorned the sacred place.
The book of the proceeds of the royal chapel, with regards to the expenses of 1843, mentions the restoration works of the painting on a wooden board portraying the Deposizione della Croce and the two oil paintings on canvas portraying the Madonna del Bosco and the other, which has an unknown title, “simile al purgatorio”.
The inventory of 1884 reports other paintings of oil on canvas, among which there are l’Immacolata, la Madonna della Pace and la Madonna della Stella.
Moreover the report of 1889, signed by Teofilo Patini and by the marquis Giulio Dragonetti, indicates that the canavas of the Madonna del Bosco and the painting on a wooden board of the Deposizione della Croce are worth preservation.
This is what Patini wrote: “The first on canavas, half a metre high and one metre wide, portray the Madonna del Bosco, painted in oils, artistic manifestation of the 17th century, very weak but interesting for the historical truth of the costumes of the two kneeling half figures who are praying  (….). It probably concerns the purchasers: the lord of the castle Baldassarre de Zuniga and his spouse): “the second painting “su tavola” (on a wooden board” is more valuable and represents the Deposizione della Croce with the Vergine and other figures (....) It has the same dimension of the first one and in the making there are once again the usual merits and imperfections of the painters of the first half of the 16th century. This painting according to the opinion of the undersigned is worthy of being preserved  for the interests both for the artistic manifestations and for the history of modern art”. From the coincidence of the dimensions and from the virtual mounting there is a comparison in a formal correspondence between a “tavola” portraying the Deposizione della Croce preserved in the Museo Nazionale d’Abruzzo and the altar niche. Considering that the paintings mentioned by Patini were given to the municipal Muses on 11 June 1889 and that the “tavola” above mentioned comes directly from the former Museo we could assume that the above mentioned painting coincides with the one originally situated above the main altar of the church of Santa Barbara.
The church of the Forte performed its functions until 1870.