• Marina Capra

History of Casale Monferrato, Monferrato capital

An incredible city whose traces date back to very ancient times, such as the Bronze Age necropolis.

The cultural circle of I Marchesi del Monferrato and Dionigi Roggero introduce us Casale Monferrato, considered by all to be the capital of the territory.


Until the Roman era

The first inhabitants of the Casalesi lands were the Ligurians, who settled on the banks of the Po, then came the Celto-Gauls from whom we inherited many words of our dialect and finally the Romans settled and founded the "municipium" Vardacate (also mentioned in Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia) today known as the city of Casale Monferrato.


The year 1000

Different stories are told that reach the year 1000 when the impenetrable caves of the Saracens (in Moleto, near Ottiglio) are transformed into a safe refuge after the raids of the ferocious invaders and the great Aleramo obtains the coveted possession of the Monferrato brand.


Independence from Vercelli

It is 988: Casale di Sant'Evasio is a small town close to the Po and the hills that begins to grow and begins to seek independence from the municipality of Vercelli. After a first failed attempt following a siege in 1215, the Casalesi reorganize themselves by building walls and towers with the Ghibelline insignia, suffering other threats from the powerful neighboring states, until the arrival of the Marquis of Monferrato, first as a quiet peacemaker, then of absolute lord.

The Aleramici dynasty extinguished in 1305 (many marquises were buried in the Cistercian abbey of Santa Maria di Lucedio, near Trino), the Monferrato passed to the Palaeologus, who after the loss of Chivasso (1435) transferred the capital of the marquisate to Casale, which becomes under the reign of the Marquis William VIII the seat of the diocese, joining the deserved title of city to the bishopric (1474).


The beginning of the city of Casale as we know it

Casale becomes a political, religious and cultural center: the Senate of Monferrato is established, the hospital of Santo Spirito is founded and the churches and palaces that we still see today are built.


The Gonzagas

The paleological branch was also exhausted with the death of Gian Giorgio (1533), the treaty of Cateau Cambrésis (1559) definitively assigned Monferrato to the Gonzagas, who violently repress the conspiracy of Oliviero Capello (1567), canceling forever the ancient municipal privileges always recognized by the Lords of Monferrato. The noble Monferrato residence was transformed by the Mantuan dynasty into a stronghold strengthened by the impregnable six-bastion Citadel (1590-95) commissioned by his son Vincenzo I on a project by Germanico Savorgnan, exponent of the well-known dynasty of Friulian military architects.


The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

The seventeenth century is an unfortunate century that sees Monferrato at the center of wars and looting between Spain and France that clash for the control of Casale and its mighty hexagonal fortification which nevertheless resists the dramatic sieges (remembered by Manzoni and Umberto Eco), but not to the secret Franco-Savoyard agreements, which in 1695 provide for its demolition for security reasons.

Due to his links with France, the last Duke of Mantua and Monferrato Ferdinand Carlo Gonzaga-Nevers was declared a traitor to the Empire by the Diet of Regensburg in June 1708. Shortly after, the Emperor Joseph I assigned the investiture of the duchy of Monferrato to Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy.

With the subsequent passage to the Savoy family, ratified in 1713 by the peace of Utrecht, Casale loses its role as capital, but is profoundly transformed, abandoning the flavor of a fortress to become more and more urban, becoming the seat of the residences of the Casalesi nobles.

Splendid in the stuccoes of the civil and religious buildings produced by Scapitt's constructive genius, the city undergoes a new metamorphosis, also improving the quality of life thanks to the Savoy policy of creating the necessary public utility structures and large green areas, such as public gardens, arose on the ramparts of the demolished and never conquered fortress.


For those who love history

This is just a small summary of the vicissitudes that have fascinated us. If you are curious and know Italian language, we advise you to read “Storia del Monferrato – Le origini, il Marchesato, il Ducato” by Carlo Ferraris and Roberto Maestri, whose publication was supported and sponsored by the Regional Council of Piedmont, the Province of Alessandria, the CRT Foundation, Cassa di Risparmio di Alessandria Foundation.

You can find it at this link -> http://www.marchesimonferrato.it/2017/06/28/storia-del-monferrato/



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