Saturday was our travel day from Ostia Antica to Colordesoli, up in Tuscany. Before we left Ostia Antica, we wanted to take the opportunity to visit the papal castle of Julius II, as it is open for visiting during the weekend.
I mentioned Julius II in a previous post; he was nicknamed ‘The Fearsome Pope’ or ‘The Warrior Pope’ likely due to his rather active foreign policy. He was elected to the papacy unanimously in 1503, due to a bit of backroom dealing, in which he made the Borgias believe that they would get lots of money as a result of his election.
However, upon getting elected, he stated:
“I will not live in the same rooms as the Borgias lived. He [Alexander VI] desecrated the Holy Church as none before. He usurped the papal power by the devil’s aid, and I forbid under the pain of excommunication anyone to speak or think of Borgia again. His name and memory must be forgotten. It must be crossed out of every document and memorial. His reign must be obliterated. All paintings made of the Borgias or for them must be covered over with black crepe. All the tombs of the Borgias must be opened and their bodies sent back to where they belong—to Spain.”
He very much became his own Pope and was ambitious in building, as much as striking out into foreign lands. His building projects included the destruction and rebuilding of the St. Peter Basilica (it wasn’t big enough before) and the commission of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.
The castle in Ostia Antica is not huge by castle standards, but nonetheless very impressive. It is clearly set up for battle, both inside the castle and taking on any siege that may be laid upon it. Canon and gun ports are everywhere, and they even used the residual heat from gun fire to warm that water for bathing. In its more recent past, the castle has also been used as a prison, as evidenced by prisoner’s markings on the walls of cells, counting down the days till their death.
The guided tour of the castle is full of information, and even though our tour was in Italian, a couple of our fellow tour participants were nice enough to provide us English translation of a number of tour highlights. So, if you’re in Ostia Antica during a weekend, check out the Castello de Giulio II!