The castle of Torre Cajetani with its village soar over the eastern end of a mountain ridge of the Ernici Mountains (817 meters above sea level). You can get there from a branch of the road that connects Alatri to Fiuggi (in the Middle Ages Anticoli di Campagna).
The origin of the castle of Torre Cajetani is uncertain.
The Floridi scholar (without referring to particular documents) states that the castle existing in the town was built between the lower empire (between 235 AD and 476 AD) and the Early Middle Ages and that in the ninth century it belonged to the family of Senator Teofilatto, who had many interests in the province of Campagna, the ancient name used to indicate this area.
Even the Costarosa scholar endorses this hypothesis by referring to an ancient parchment named by Mirzio that would prove the existence of the Castrum and the village in the sixth century, referring to the stop that San Benedetto made at Torre Cajetani in his journey from Subiaco to Cassino.
“… S. Benedictum […] iter facisse et for Castrum Turris Appellatum Transisse”.
A monastery was erected in memory of the Saint’s journey, but nothing can be said about its date of foundation, which is mentioned for the first time only in a document dated 1243. Today there is still a small church dedicated to the Saint.
The denomination “Torre” suggests the primitive existence on the spot of an isolated tower or of a lookout on whose foundation could rise, perhaps, the one still visible today. The location and characteristics of the place are extremely favourable for the installation of a lookout point, from which it is easy to dominate much of the Anticolana valley in the two directions of Alatri and Anagni, and so support this hypothesis.
The tower itself could have been the beginning of the first nucleus of the town under the direct control of Alatri. In fact, usually the villages were created around fortifications during the era called “encastellation” around the tenth century.
The oldest parchment that mentions the “castrum quod Turris vocatur” dates from 1180 and shows the pact between the lords (domini) of the centre “et alios suos homines … de servitiis et comsuetudimibus“.
The document demonstrates the existence at that time of a fortified settlement now fully formed and organized, whose defence was left to its inhabitants. From the same parchment one obtains its constitution in “condominium” and the alatrine origin of some of its dominions (figli dominj davit de Aletro).
For some of the others, it can be assumed from the locality to belong to a local feudal lord and, in particular, Anagnina (figli domini Amatonis; Rainaldus Rubeus, perhaps related to the homonymous dominus of Anagnian origin, to which more than half of the Lords of Trevi nel Lazio belonged ).
The castrum would remain in this legal condition at least until the end of the 1200, as evidenced by the various purchase and sale documents that see as ‘actors’ on one side the Caetani and on the other various groups.
From 1180 at this moment the documents that allow one to follow the events of the inhabited area, perhaps under submission to Alatri since the beginning of the XIII century, are scarce.
The castle was the subject of a provision of 1216 by Onorio III confirming the assets of the alatrine chapter in Torre Cajetani and Porciano (which is now part of Ferentino) with the prohibition of selling “aut locare vel infeed” these assets, most probably to defend the lands of the Church from the aims of the powerful barons in the province.
At the end of the 13th century, the castle was bought by the Caetani family who enlarged the structure of the fortification on the basis of a quadrangular plan with the main tower in the centre. This happened with the investiture of Loffredo III to dominus of the castles of Torre, Pofi, Trevi, Filettino and Vallepietra who gave birth to the branch “Caetani della Torre“.
The Architecture of the Castle
The north side of the castle represented the most defended part of the complex, because it was built on a steep precipice to the bottom of the valley, which made it inaccessible. To the east it was equipped with an access controlled by a permanent guard post that was isolated from the rest of the building and equipped with a drawbridge to protect both the castle and the central keep. Strong spurs strengthened the perimeter of the walls.
To the south a complex of buildings was built, the palatium, with a residential character bordered by two courtyards and protected by very high and homogeneous walls. The South-West side was controlled by four semicircular towers (still existing and visible), detached from the main structure, but connected by walkways and tunnels, and by a circular tower incorporated into the castle structure. You can see the remains in the current undergrounds.
The access to this part of the castle was protected by a deep moat with its drawbridge and, thanks to the long obligatory route, it was always under the control of the castellans, first with defence of poured liquid spray and then with defence by hurled materials.
If they had passed the ditch, the assailants would have had to pass a first door to the South and take a narrow passage to the other east drawbridge, which further protected the access to the castle.
The central keep was the fulcrum of final defence. It was built on rock with carefully squared blocks and was equipped with cellars with trapdoors. It could only be accessed via a drawbridge.
Despite the changes and changes in the weather, along the streets of the village it is still possible to take the road that leads from Posenza (or National) to the east entrance of the castle, and you can easily understand how the defence of this part of the town was structured.
In 1349 the castle suffered serious damage as a result of a very strong earthquake and remained effectively in ruins until the restoration by the Caetani, who returned it to the former importance turning it into a more residential castle than a defence post.
In 1500 the castle entered the sights of Pope Alexander VI Borgia who confiscated it and gave it to his brother Giovanni. The folk tales narrate that Lucrezia Borgia also stayed in the castle.
After the fall of the Borgias the Castle returned to the Caetani family who remained in possession of it with all its privileges until the end of the 1800s. The last of the Caetani was Anatolius who carried out further work of transformation, which led to filling of the moat and disappearance of the drawbridges.
The last of the Caetani was responsible for the demolition of the oratory of Bonifacio VIII including the destruction (in the true sense of the word) of the altar used every morning by the Pope to say mass during his stay at the castle.
In 1900 the castle was bought by the family Terrinoni di Fiuggi and was then damaged by the Marsica earthquake of 1915. The castle of Torre Cajetani went “unharmed” during the Second World War but nothing could protect it from the Civil Engineers, who had some perimeter walls demolished for the protection of the inhabited area.
For singular historical appeal (see also “The Teofilatto castle: they came back!“), it was then found and bought by the Teofilatto family, an ancient Roman family, which undertook a complete restoration preserving it from neglect and abandonment.
The castle as we see it today is “son” of the last restoration and of the various modalities suffered over the years, but still remains the noble and proud witness of the history of the town. Walking inside you are always catapulted into an era that no longer exists.
Torre Cajetani and its castle still have that charm, that uniqueness that is difficult to find in other places.
For lovers of mystery, popular tradition wants that even today, walking at night, you can meet some characters of old times like
– The executioner who returns to the castle to punish some condemned to death
– Caterina who took care of the collection of herbs, taking care of the people of the village, and who after the earthquake of 1349 was accused of witchcraft and of being the cause of God’s wrath, and for this she was burned at the stake
– on full moon nights looking up at the tower you could watch the running of a poor young womanwho coming to the top floor of the tower throws herself down preferring to die instead of respecting the law of “ius prime noctis” (the right of the first night wedding).
For information and possible visits to the castle, follow up on the castle’s website (http://www.castelloteofilatto.it/ita/contatti-location-castello-teofilatto.html) you will find all the information you need