Castelseprio - Gornate Olona (VA)

archaeological park, Country Park, religious architecture, fortified settlement, exhibition
Bronze Age, Roman age, Early Medieval period, Late medieval period, Renaissance

The Archeological area of Castelseprio – Torba

The place in which Castrum Sibrium was founded in Early Medieval times had been occupied starting from proto-historic times, as is demonstrated by the discovery of objects dating from the Late Bronze Age (X century BC) to the early Roman era.
In the IV-V century AD the summit of the plateau became a military post that controlled the pre-Alpine valleys and the nearby transport system, exploited periodically by Goths, Lombards and Franks.
The settlement in later times succeeded in maintaining its importance but, when it became involved in a power struggle between the Visconti and the Della Torre, it was overwhelmed in 1287 by Ottone Visconti who subsequently ordered its demolition. The cult buildings were spared and only abandoned by the religious authorities in the XVII century.
The Archaeological Park at Castelseprio includes a fortified area that extends down the valley as far as Torba and an extramural village.
At the "castrum", surrounded by a wall built in Gothic times, the entrance was via a bridge. Inside the defences the paleochristian complex dedicated to Saint John stands out, made up of basilica and baptistery, to which are linked a cistern with a well. The bell tower is an adaptation of one of the three Late Roman watch towers. Close by the Romanesque church of Saint Paul was built. Amongst the residential buildings there are private houses from various eras and houses that were occupied by the church canons up until the XVI century.
In the extramural village the oratory Santa Maria "foris portas", erected between the VII and the IX century is decorated with extraordinary series of frescoes that narrate the story of Mary and of Christ's childhood according to the traditions of the apocryphal gospel.
The "Antiquarium" is located in the small 13th century convent of S. Giovanni.
The Torba complex in Lombard times was the seat of a convent of the Benedictine nuns that had adapted one of the defensive towers as an oratory and burial ground; the monastery and the adjacent church of S. Maria were in use up until 1482.