After parking your car and passing through the Porta Romana which was once accessible by drawbridge, the village of Fumone winds its way through a maze of medieval alleys and narrow streets all paved in stone and brick. Surrounded by houses, towers, fortresses, antique stores, gardens, stables, mills, cellars, and all the services needed to support a medieval armed guard stationed at the fortress; you are transported back in time to the Middle Ages where everything is so perfectly preserved.
Entrance of the Castle
The castle is situated in the center of the fort standing there for over a thousand years, surrounded by protective walls and equipped with self-defensive equipment. A historically significant location, once the seat of the Vassals of Fumone, a papal state prison for political prisoners and extraordinary observatory to valleys, roads, cities, and especially towards the Via Latina (the road leading from Rome to Naples). In the course of history, the castle has only changed hands twice; from the tenth century (first documented) as papal property until 1584 when the manor was sold to the family of the Marquis Longhi de Paolis. The Longhi family is still today the heirs and guardians of the fortress, passing on the responsibilities of preserving it for future generations from father to son.
A visit and tour of the Castle of Fumone will take you on a trip back in time with the opportunity to see the rooms on the main floor, the Shrine of Pope Celestine V, the Hanging Gardens, and the Contemporary Art Gallery. Fully guided tours are available as self guided tours are not permitted at this time. In addition, smoking is not permitted anywhere on the property, and pets are permitted (with leash) except for in the Sanctuary. The castle is open for tours to the public every day at the following times:
Morning 10am – 1pm
Afternoon 3pm – 6pm
Sundays all day from 10am – 6pm
Afternoon’s times are extended until 8pm.
Upon arriving at the main floor, you will be directly in front of the "Well of the Virgin". This cruel and medieval method of punishment was used by the Vassals of Fumone when exercising the "Right of the Lord" an assumed legal right allowing the lord of a medieval estate to be the first to take the virginity of his serfs' maiden daughters. If the girl was found not to be a virgin, she was thrown into the well.
Along the corridor of the chapel, where there are inscriptions dating back to Roman and medieval times, the visit continues with the sacristy. This is where you can see over three hundred Christian and saints relics that have been donated to the Longhi de Paolis family over the centuries by the popes, cardinals and bishops devoted to St. Peter Celestine V as well as the sanctuary where Celestine V died in 1296.
The Sanctuary of Celestine V
The tour continues to the Shrine of St. Peter Celestine V. This is certainly the most significant location in the Castle of Fumone. An atmosphere of serenity, peace, and substantial spirituality can be experiences in this small chapel, built by the Longhi’s in the year 700 to honor Pope Celestine V. This space along with the narrow prison where the holy pope died performing his first miracle after his death in May 1296, has always been the most vivid memory that remains in the memory of anyone who visits the castle.
The Prison Celestine V
In September 1966, the sanctuary was visited by the Holy Father Paul VI. The pope remained alone in the little prison to pray, and before leaving, arranged with his own hands a cross votive that can still be seen today designed by his personal staff sculptor Enrico Manfrini in memory of his visit.
Visit of Paolo VI in the Castle of Fumone – September 1966
Archive of the Castle
Adjacent to the Sanctuary is a small medieval courtyard leading to the archives of Fumone Castle. Here are preserved many important manuscripts ranging from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century (the oldest ones were lost in a fire in 1700). For over two hundred years, the archives have also kept the embalmed body of a child, Francesco Longhi-Caetani (heir of the family in the nineteenth century), who died under mysterious circumstances and subject of many legends.
The Crest Hall
From the archives, going through a small door, the tour leads visitors to the East Wing of the medieval castle. This introduces visitors to the ancient Crest Hall, a large room with vaulted ceiling which served as the main dining room over the centuries. A huge fireplace dominates the room and the walls are decorated with the Crests of the Longhi family and other aristocratic and noble families related to the Longhi family. You can also observe the remarkable huge stone sink, used for centuries to skin and wash the animals to be cooked on the embers of the fireplace.
The Hall of the Caesars
The tour continues into the hall of the Caesars, named for the presence of original hand sculpted Roman busts representing the Emperors Augustus, Vitelius, Marcus Aurelius, Diocletian and that of dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla. In the same room, you can admire a multitude of valuable and artistically significant pieces of art including a giant Roman cinerary urn made from Italian pavonazzetto marble, other fine sculptures from the Roman period, and a series of paintings of prominent sixteenth century artists.
The Hall of Ancestors
Following on the tour, and adjacent to the hall of the Caesars, the Hall of Ancestors is an environment rich in suggestion. Portraits of Longhi de Paolis family members adorn the red damask walls, as well as a display of roman busts and other notable works of art complement the beautiful setting of the room.
The Hanging Gardens
Continuing through a long passage, a visit to the Hanging Gardens built by the family in the seventeen century is a must. Stepping out of the ancient passage, it is surprising to be surrounded by such abundant greenery and breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The gardens and terraces are built along the old towers, battlements and moats boasting mature trees that make the Hanging Gardens the highest in Europe at 800 meters above sea level: a veritable 3500 square meters of suspended green oasis. The view from the Hanging Gardens sweeps out over a vast territory of over forty villages, valleys, rivers, mountains, castles, roads; an observatory overlooking half the territory of Ciociaria . A titanic work, carried out in a few years that has always drawn amazement and wonder not only for its view, but also for the harmonious perfection of the building, typical of the princely villas of the Renaissance.
The Gallery of Count Giovanni
The tour inside the Castle of Fumone ends with a visit to the "Gallery of Count Giovanni" where the ancient and the present are combined with beautiful masterpieces. A rich collection of contemporary art by artists of world renown, are exposed in the seventeen-century wing of the castle available to fans of the genre. Coffered ceilings and damask, original floors welcome paintings, sculptures and installations, in a striking contrast between old and new.