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Fortress 's Priamar

Category: Villa&Castle

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The history of the Priamàr starts in the Middle Bronze Age (second half of the second millennium BC) when the hill was the site of the first coastal settlement of the Ligures Sabazi. During the Iron Age, they established links with communities and merchants from Etruria, Greece (through the colony at Marseilles) and Carthage, contacts that are attested by archeological finds, especially of pottery. The wars with Rome, by this time recorded in the written sources, and the slow process of Romanization are also reflected in the presence of black-glazed earthenware, the typical ?Campanian? pottery of the republican era. In the imperial age, the settlement on the Priamàr was of little significance in comparison with the center at Vado, but, like all the secure sites on the peninsula, took on more importance with the crisis of the third century and the first barbarian incursions. The hill then developed into a substantial settlement with a large necropolis, in which eighty-seven graves of different types have been identified (in cap tombs, chests and amphorae and with stone lids), dating from between the fourth and seventh century AD.Abandoned after the conquest by the Longobard king Rotari (643), the Priamàr was inhabited again by the beginning of the ninth century, as attested by the postholes of huts, hearths and crude earthenware that have been found, along with stretches of wall that may have belonged to the defenses of the early medieval castrum. The earliest evidence of military use of the hill was found on the same archeological site and dates from the second decade of the thirteenth century: the fortifications of the castle of Santa Maria (1213), erected by Genoa, whose construction entailed the complete demolition of the last civil structures on the northeastern side of the eminence. These included a noble tower whose massive basement (6·95 x 7·10 m or 22 ft 10 in x 23 ft 4 in) has been brought to light in the southern corner of the present keep. The oldest nucleus of the castle of Santa Maria was then fused, in subsequent alterations, with the Loggia del Castello Nuovo, the only building in the medieval city that survived the destruction wreaked by the Genoese in the sixteenth century and which is now used to house the Collections of the Priamàr. The Loggia del Castello Nuovo is the outcome of a series of interventions in the thirteenth and fourteenth century, carefully documented over the course of the excavations, culminating in the restructuring of 1417 which gave it, roughly speaking, the appearance it has today, while the upper story is a later addition. Once the residence of the Genoese governor, all that remains of the original structure is the ground floor with eleven pointed arches built of brick and, on the northeast side, the so-called Sala ad Ombrello (?umbrella-shaped room?). The name derives from the characteristic vault that roofs the room: a dome split into eight segments of different sizes, with a central pillar forming the ?handle.? Set underneath the keystone, this pillar is not structural, but was added as a precaution when an extra story was built onto the Palazzo della Loggia. Between 1542 and 1543, the Lombard Gio Maria Olgiati built a massive front of walls on the slopes of the Priamàr for the Genoese. This followed the topography of the hill in its height and plan. The architecture hinges on the cardinal element of the bastion, a triangular structure that projects to varying degrees and is set at regular intervals along the front of the curtain of walls. Inside, the area of the fortress was divided into two sections, separated by the already existing moat of Sant?Anna. In 1746 this imposing structure fell into the hands of the Savoy. They erected several new buildings, including the Powder Magazine, Palace of the Sibyl and, around the bailey of the keep, the Palace of the Commissar and Palace of the Officials. These last, with the fifteenth-century Loggia and the sixteenth-century pavilion of the Standard, complete a formidable quadrilateral with an appearance that is at once severe and harmonious, even though its elements were accumulated over the span of three centuries. In 1820 a penitentiary was set up in the Priamàr and was used to hold such illustrious detainees as Santorre di Santarosa and Giuseppe Mazzini.