photo © Louise Shapcott
Fontechiari in The Val di Comino
Fontechiari is a pretty medieval village perched on a hill measuring 375 metres above sea level, between the Valle del Liri and Val di Comino in the province of Frosinone. It has wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The village takes its name from the numerous fresh water springs that are located in this territory and the river of the same name. The town has a population of about 1,300 people and the local dialect is fontechiaresi.
The Medieval Tower of Fontechiari
At the heart of the village is the mighty Medieval Tower dating from the 13th century, built by the Counts of Aquino. It is situated in the tree-lined Piazza Panetta. The structure measures 25 meters in height, and has a quadrangular base. The upper part was originally covered by a wooden roof, that no longer exists, however the stone corbels can still be seen. On the south wall there are some small windows, while on the west side there are three coats of arms. One is attributed to the Dukes of Aquino, and another to the Dukes of Cantelmo. The third is of the Da Celano family to commemorate the marriage between Antonio Cantelmo and Antonella Celano. A stone staircase located outside the tower leads to the room located on the first floor which is used for various functions, including the administration of justice. A trapdoor also allows descent to a subterranean room equipped with a tunnel. This passed beneath the perimeter walls and reached the open countryside. There is also an old pit or well into which it is said that prisoners were thrown. The medieval town was protected by a circuit of town walls, which in places were built over pre-existing ancient polygonal walls. Some sections of the town walls can still be seen today.
Photo Tour of the Historic Centre of Fontechiari
The Napoleonic Cemetery
The Napoleonic Cemetery of Fontechiari is an important testimony of French domination in Italy. It was built in 1838 in the area of Sant’Onofrio, following the edict of Saint Cloud of 1804. The decree ordered that the remains of the dead should be buried in tombs outside of the city walls, for hygienic reasons and to avoid discrimination among the dead. Its activity began in 1844 and ceased in 1888.
The cemetery is cylindrical in shape and was arranged over two floors. The first floor has an internal courtyard with four trap-doors from which dead of the lower-classes were lowered into mass graves. Around the courtyard there are the chapels of noble families, while the central chapel, La Cappella dei Preti, was reserved for ecclesiastics. Under the mound on which the structure was built there were underlying caves which helped to ventilate the area of the ossuary. During the Second World War it was used as an outpost by the Germans. It is located very near to the present cemetery of Fontechiari.
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