In documents from the late 13th
century, where a castrum porta Fibellone
is mentioned, the lord’s power is identified with the castle of Turin, even
though it occupies a place on the margins of the town toward the Po River.
Prince Filippo I chose Pinerolo as his
preferred residence for the Acaia court and wanted to use the castle of Turin
as a military and diplomatic seat rather than his courtly residence. Documents
mention, for example, preparations for an expedition to Val San Martino: the
prince supported the expansionistic policy of his uncle, Amedeo V, and offered
his fortress as a meeting place for Piedmont’s nobility.
Upkeep documented by the records of the
officer Fredericus de Loyra bear witness to the existence of a defense
structure, a castrum, part of the
Roman gate. It was already mentioned one decade earlier in the concession treaty
of the city that Marquis Guglielmo di Monferrato was forced to stipulate with Tommaso
of Savoy, in 1280.
In the Middle Ages, the Roman gate
underwent its first radical transformation when it was used to defend the city.
The Roman arches were closed off and a fortalice alongside the towers was built.
Porta Fibellona is the name given to the new passageway between the city and
the countryside, open in the ancient walls alongside the south tower and still
today partially visible from inside the palace, along the staircase that leads
to the moat. This is the only medieval gate in Turin that has survived the city’s
expansion: its round arch imitates Roman models and is part of a general
phenomenon of rebirth and repurposing ancient structures.
The moat level of the museum displays one of the most interesting exhibits in Piedmont. Related to the patronage of Bishop Azzone, the work was found in l1854, as a new floor was being installed for the Cathedral of Santa Maria di Acqui, and is dated to between the second and third decade of the 12th century. The inscription celebrates the great Bishop Guido (Widone), who was actively engaged in building the Cathedral around the year 1000. Today the remains of the mosaic consist of thirteen fragments in black and white marble tiles laid on the original pinkish mortar. The panels depict scenes that are still difficult to identify.
The activity of artists in Piedmont
during the 12th century is documented by the works on display on the
moat level of the Museum. These include "Arnaldus," who signed a
fragment from Oulx in Valle di Susa, and the anonymous "Maestro di Rivalta
Torinese," also engaged in the Sacra di San Michele and on two column capitals
with figures. The predilection of Romanesque sculptors for scenes with figures
is expressed in works with different functions, like the portal lunettes,
baptismal fonts, stoups, and reliefs intended for places of worship: several
examples of this production can be admired along the itinerary inside the
One of the most significant inventions
of Romanesque culture, capitals with figures, as well as paintings, stained
glass, and mosaics, transpose major stories from the Old and New Testament to
the architecture of churches and monasteries. For example, those from the
cloister of Sant'Orso in Aosta, an important testimony of sacred medieval art
and among the most important works held in the Lapidarium.
As regards the palace during the early
Middle Ages there is very little left, but we know that in the late 11th
century, during the age of the city-states, the gate area was used for control
and fiscal matters and outside the walls an encampment was built. Testimonies
from this period can be found in the underground rooms of the Museum, which was
once used for storage: a group of sculptures from Piedmont and series of fragments, which document the
furnishings of the ancient Church of San Salvatore, a building that once stood
where the Duomo
di Torino is now located.
Madama is a sort of captivating history book, with enigmatic pages. From the
late Roman empire to the new millennium there is no information regarding the
gate; excavations confirm a decline of the structures and only traces remain of
the fortifications, surely destroyed by the 18th-century work on the
façade, which went even deeper than the Roman level
the ruins discovered by Alfredo d'Andrade during his excavation campaign in the
1800s, which unearthed the foundations of the gate and some reliefs in marble
with military scenes, was a funerary stone, now held at the Museum. An unknown
Roman soldier, for whom this was sculpted, wanted the “Roman she-wolf” for the
tympanum, a symbol of the home that he left
The history of the building at the
center of Piazza Castello began in Roman times. The foundations of the current
palace once opened up to one of the ancient entrances to the city of Augusta Taurinorum:
this includes the east gate, made up of two towers with sixteen sides, which
surrounded four arched entrances, two central ones for carts and wagons and two
side ones for people on foot. Its size and shape were similar to those of the Porta
Palatina to the north of the city. Heading toward the Book Shop and the
exit, Museum visitors pass the ruins of the Roman wall that still can be seen.