Exploitation and management of water resources in the suburb of Viterbo. A medieval and early modern country house in Ponte dell’Elce

Biscione, Marilisa and Gaspari, Federica and Masini, Nicola and Romagnoli, Giuseppe (2016) Exploitation and management of water resources in the suburb of Viterbo. A medieval and early modern country house in Ponte dell’Elce. pp. 1-2. (In Press)

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This paper shows the first results of a research project on a medieval and early modern complex in Ponte dell’Elce near Viterbo. Final aim of this work is to enhance knowledge of the site through multidisciplinary investigations, and to develope a methodological approach to understand and preserve similar contexts where natural elements and artistic artefacts are merged to form a unique masterpiece. The archaeological, architectural and artistic value of Ponte dell’Elce is due to an extraordinary stratification of ages and kind of use of this area, always influenced by two natural elements widely spread in the countries around Viterbo: the tuff rocks and the water sources. In particular water was a basic resource for agriculture, animal farming, and industrial activities (especially watermills) during the Middle Ages, but also a distinguishing feature of many residences with gardens and hunting reserves built by aristocracy in Northern Lazio during the XVI century. In this period, the exaltation of environment and water through artistic elements and decorative programs has been developed in the well-known examples of Bagnaia (Villa Lante), Soriano nel Cimino (Fonte Papacqua) and Bomarzo (Sacro Bosco), beautiful aristocratic locations. Ponte dell'Elce is located 2 km SE of medieval and modern city of Viterbo, along the modern Via Cassia, in an area characterized by a dense network of streams that flow from the Cimini Mountains to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The original nucleus of the architectural complex dates back to late Middle Ages: in this period a tower and a square building were built on the highest part of a huge tuff boulder. The structure, probably connected to the control of a factory located close to the Fosso Roncone, had military defensive characteristics, as shown by the presence of at least two rectangular arrow slits, and could be dated in the 13th century. Between the end of the 15th and second half of the 16th century, the main building was renewed and transformed into a comfortable mansion (called casale or casaletto); at the same time the upper part of the tower was converted into a pigeon house. Meanwhile, the complex was included in a larger context and the surrounding area was converted into a private place dedicated to the leisure and relaxation of the owner and his guests. The tuff boulders in the courtyard were decorated by sculptures, benchs and fountains according to a decorative program strictly linked to natural elements of the site. Rocks and water are the background of the myth of Hercules and Hesione, a story that takes place in a sea cliff. An imposing Faun, carved in the rock at the basis of the medieval tower presents the main characters of the myth represented in the next sculptures. The site was embellished with two monumental fountains working thanks to a complex system of channels and aqueducts based on a preexisting water system. A fountain representing a River God was placed in the original main entrance of the complex, as a welcome to the visitor coming from Viterbo. The site is abandoned and exposed to numerous risks (e.g. urban sprawl) and to major problems of structural instability (buildings) and material decay (sculptures and fountains) caused by the lack of safeguard, the weather, the vegetation and the vibrations due to the railway traffic. In the future the research will be aimed at addressing conservation issues by means of the analysis and monitoring of the structural problems of the architectural and boulders below, diagnostics and monitoring of diseases of degradation of the sculptures, mineralogical and petrographic characterization.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: 600 Tecnologia - Scienze applicate
Depositing User: dottoressa Gaetana Marchesini
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2017 09:15
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2017 09:15
URI: http://eprints.bice.rm.cnr.it/id/eprint/15930

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