Castle of Godano
Comune di Sesta Godano: piazza Marconi 1 - 19020 Sesta Godano (SP)
Telefono: 0187 89 15 25
Fax: 0187 87 09 21
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Godano is on the north-eastern boundary of the province of La Spezia on the right bank of the river Vara, from which the surrounding valley takes its name. With the Liguria Heritage audio-guides you will discover its story hidden in the roads of the village, between houses that probably hide columns and remains from the castle that was erected just above the residential centre. 

The stories of Sesta and Godano

Godano, the hamlet in the uplands of the municipality of Sesta Godano, attracts visitors with the story of its castle on the summit of this fortified village, with its circular structure and houses, and the lanes, which are still intact, that wind through them.
Only a few ruins of the central tower remain of the castle, but the story of the village does not lie only in its castle.

Its roots are implanted in ancient times, in the period after the Roman domination of the coast, when the colonisers moved to the hinterland to control and protect the Emilia Scauri road, built in 109 B.C. by the console of the same name to connect Luni. Passing along the main road that rose towards Piacenza and Tortona, it descended towards Vado, known as Vada Sabatia in ancient times.
That the Romans left an imprint in the landscape where Sesta Godano rises cannot be denied, but that they left it when the village in question was being established is not as undeniable. First of all it must be said that Sesta and Godano arose in two different manners; we now know these two towns as being associated in administration, but their roots are not in the same historical context.

There are different interpretations on the origins of the place name Sesta. It could derive from the Latin word “sextum”, meaning the sixth mile that indicates the position of the antique parish church of S. Maria Assunta and S. Marco, at a distance of 200 metres from mount Gottero, almost at the crossing for Liguria, Emilia and Tuscany and which was a stopping place for merchants and travellers. Other options instead indicate that it may originate from the term that referred to the “place for the hill country exposed at the sixth hour”, namely at noon; or from the word “sesta”, the rib of the arch in the sun’s route.
Godano and the nearby Offiano get their names from the Gothic age, but previously the name of the village was Robiano, probably deriving from a gens Rubra or the Roman name Rubius. When they reached it, the Goths placed bars on this village and protected the passes and communication roads of the valley, a use that was upheld by the Byzantines.

We seem to have reached mountainous land. In front of us we have landscapes immersed in nature, which we can imagine as being marginal to the story of the great events. Yet even these places have seen the Romans, Byzantines, Lombards and each one of these populations left a mark, some more sensitive than others. Listen to the audioguide 1 to learn what happened in this valley.

The castle in the Middle Ages

During the 11th century, Sesta appears in some imperial concessions as the territory that collected tolls on the goods and from the travelling monks from the Lombard abbey of San Salvatore di Leno, and who exercised the same rights in Pontremoli.
The area of Godano and the surrounding territory were, instead, part of the landed property of the abbey of Brugnato, as occurred with all the parish churches following establishment of the Diocese of Brugnato in 1133.

From a political viewpoint the area was mainly marked by the activity of the Estensis and the Malaspinas, of which the first remained in the area from the 11th century as lords of Pontremoli and therefore of the roads that from there led to the riviera, occupying also Godano and Chiusola, while the second from the 12th century had no aim other than imposing their supremacy throughout Lunigiana.

It is highly probable that the castles of Godano, Chiusola, Rio and Groppo formed a fortified quadrilateral that surrounded their jurisdiction. In 1229 Godano was the dominion of Pontremoli. It is not known from when, maybe only three years before, but the Malaspinas tried to get it back.
In turn Pontremoli and the territories managed by its Municipality were part of the territories desired by the Fieschis, in particular Nicolò and Alberto, the grandchildren of Tedisio Fieschi, one of the lineage founders. We know, in fact, that at that time our castle of Godano was transformed by Alberto Fieschi into one of the operation centres against the Genoese, which contrasted the advance of their power into the east. The answer from the Republic was immediate; in 1273 Andrea Doria, captain of the people, sent crossbowmen and infantrymen to storm the castle, something that was rather simple to do. Only ten years later Godano was again in the Pontremoli sphere of power, which gave custody of the castle to a captain and six servants, their names drawn each month from those who were from 15 to 70 years old. Owning this castle was important for Pontremoli as a control point in the Vara Valley, a fact evidenced by the rules that the Municipality imposed on those who looked after it. It was in fact established that whoever lost or surrendered the castle would be punished by death and his heirs would have paid the consequences forever.

Out of the Middle Ages

After this Pontremoli exited from the story of Godano. During the 14th century the village and its castle passed to Lucca, and from Lucca to the Malaspinas who, for the whole of the century and the next one, disputed possession alternately with the Republic of Genoa and the Fieschi family.

In the mid-15th century, Godano and Chiusola tried to create a new Marquisate of Godano and Bolano, but Antonio II and his son Antonio III, with their attitude of arrogant and aggressive feudatories, antagonized the population so much that the inhabitants rebelled. The Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, had to be called in to sedate the rebellion.
The Sforzas intermeddled in the Ligurian area, and between 1494 and 1499 the duchy of Ludovico il Moro positioned Milanese troops at Pontremoli. The duchy also intervened in the fief in favour of Antonio III Malaspina until the lord of Pontremoli in the end decided to accept the complaints of the people from Godano and so freed them from the power of the Malaspina family. The family, however, did not recognise the Milanese authority and ordered destruction of the castle as punishment.

They were difficult years for the people of Godano, reaching the limit in confrontations with the lords, as is witnessed by the killing of Alessandro Malaspina during his attempt to recover Godano, strong with the help of Sinibaldo Fieschi.
Finally, on 03rd September 1526, Godano surrendered to Genoa, following its same destiny.

The intervention

Today all that remains of this castle are a few remnants of the walls of the lord’s fortress on the top of the hill overlooking the town, mostly covered in vegetation.
In the town below the fortress, however, we can still see the curtain wall, evidence of the town’s original defensive purpose, as well as a few buildings constructed using medieval wall-building techniques and perhaps signs of old secret passages.

The deterioration of the fortified buildings on the top of the hill is mainly due to the damp filtering under the soil and the roots of trees, though these are mostly found around the edge of the summit.

As part of the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013), this restoration work aims to uncover hidden archaeological features and salvage them using conservative restoration, to repair any gaps and carry out any other work that will help make the layout and purpose of the site clear to onlookers.
This includes plans to create a tourist itinerary that will allow visitors to reach all parts of the castle area without damaging the building and in complete safety, so as to make all the information that a site like this can offer residents and tourists easily accessible.

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