Just over six thousand inhabitants and two castles: this is Fagagna, where five ancient hamlets, all separate, coexisted until they merged to form today’s village. The Patriarchs of Aquileia, who had owned the area since 983,had many residential buildings erected there which were entrusted to small feudatories who had to reside there permanently to protect and defend them.
Therefore they were called “feudi d’abitanza”, or a form of ‘residential fiefs’, and together formed a consortium. Fagagna’s consortium is the largest and most well-documented in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Their little houses were built between the 13th and the 14th century on wide terracing under the castle, forming a small hamlet enclosed by a second circle of walls. Further to the north was the Brunelde complex, a house-come-fortress owned by the noble Arcano family who were very powerful in the Middle Ages.
The complex was first mentioned in 1208, extensively restructured in the first twenty years of the 16th century, and today stands as an interesting site for exploring the history of types of residential property.
In 1420, the village fell under the dominion of the Serenissima, the Republic of Venice, without any battles. A delegation of people from Fagagna representing the Council of the Twelve – four noblemen and eight men of the people – which governed the Community, went spontaneously to the Venetian commander, at the time, undertaking a raid in Udine and swore allegiance to the Republic. This avoided bloodshed in the village, which then comprised five small hamlets (Paludo, Sacavan, Sospia, Portafrea and Riolo), a group of
farmhouses in the countryside around the Lini mill, and the houses within the defensive wall of St James located right below the castle, which was becoming less and less important.
Today, all that remains of the castle is the old tower converted into a bell tower, the remains of the imposing semi-circular bastion with three loopholes, some houses converted into a traditional Italian restaurant, the central keep, and the 14th century church of St Michael. Between 1490 and 1505, many of the stones of the dilapidated castle were used to build Palazzo del Comune, with an open loggia for public ceremonies and a meeting hall on the first floor with four single-lancet windows and a triple lancet window, surmounted by the lion of St Mark, the crest of the Serenissima.
The castle of Villalta has withstood the passage of time, even if it has a rather troubled history. It is thought to have been built between the 10th and 12th century, reaching the peak of its glory period in the 13th century, before being destroyed, for the first time, by the count of Gorizia in 1310.
Once it had been rebuilt, it was demolished again in 1353 by Patriarch Nicolaus of Luxembourg and then again in 1385 during the war for the appointment of Philippe of Alençon as the new Patriarch. 1511 was the last of the troubled years: a fire broke out during the popular Friulian revolt, when locals assaulted and raided some twenty castles, and a month later there was an earthquake.
Finally came the reconstruction which remains today, followed by several peaceful centuries, and then a series of dark and ominous tales which haunted the castle until the 20th century. Also worthy of note in Fagagna are the numerous houses of prayer, among which the medieval church of the Virgin Mary of Tavella, immersed in the Madrisio countryside, and the small 14th century church of St Leonard in
the hamlet of Riolo. Looking back at the village’s more recent history, Fabio Asquini, an enterprising follower of the Enlightenment, stands out. He started a flourishing wine-making business in 1753, taking his white Picolit across half of Europe until 1811. At the end of the 19th century, the countess Cora Slocomb di
Brazzà opened a lace embroidery school which remained active until the 1960s, to provide support to the daughters of farmers and workers. They even embroidered for Queen Margherita.
Lastly, not to be missed is the “Cjase Cocèl” museum of rural life. The museum is housed in an old rural residence, parts of which date back to the 17th century. The yard, stables, barn, house, mill, forge, farm, tavern and dairy – which is well known in Fagagna for its cheese – have all been reconstructed.
The whole area was once covered by lush forests, in particular by beech trees, known as “fagus” in Latin. The name of the village indeed comes from “fagus”, which became “Faganeu” and finally “Fagagna”, preserving the reference to the beauty of the surrounding nature.
Comune di Fagagna
Provincia di Udine
S. Giacomo, 25 luglio
Distanze in km
Trieste 67, Udine 15, Spilimbergo 20
99-266 m s.l.m.