Castle of Brina
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Comune di Sarzana: piazza Matteotti, 1 - Sarzana (SP)
Telefono: 0187 61 41
Fax: 0187 61 42 52
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Brina castle is a typical example of a military base on high ground; positioned between today’s towns of Ponzano Superiore and Falcinello, you can reach it following a path that winds through the woods and which makes the visit even more pleasant, above all for nature enthusiasts. Once at the top, where the ruins are, you may find it difficult to understand the archaeological excavations, but with the Liguria Heritage audio-guides, everything becomes much simpler!

A castle, many different names

Known as Castrum Brine, where castrum identifies a military base dominated by a castle, or as Villa Brine, when the castle was no longer useful for defence but only for living in, or simply as San Biagio when even the village degenerated and remained only a place of cult. The many names of the castle in Brina, located at a height of 200 metres in the hills of Nuda in the province of La Spezia, manage to briefly tell its story.

Created with an important function tied to its strategic position near Via Francigena, the land in which the castle rises contains remains from the Roman era, even if it is difficult to give a more exact date because mixed with others from later periods. It is not yet clear how strong the Roman presence was in the area, with the nature of the military base being clearer during the Late Antiquity/Medieval era, a period in which it controlled the valley up to the mouth of the river Magra and even up to Luni port under the desire of the Bishops of Luni, lords of almost all the castles in the area.

Why is this castle nearby, and not level with, Via Francigena, a fundamental road in the Medieval era? Maybe it was the evolution of an already-existing Roman military base, or did it arise from a strategic-territorial need? Listen to the audioguide 1 and you will find the answer to these questions!

Castrum Brinae in the Middle Ages

The most characteristic element of the visit is the ruins of a circular tower destroyed on one side, having a diameter of 4 metres and made from local material, proof of the military base that developed from the 11th century. There are more numerous traces of the village from the early Middle Ages (9th century) which probably contained some cabins of different shapes built with the perishable material that was easy to find in the territory and surrounded by the palisades that followed the shape of the territory which, in those times, was probably no flatter than what we see now.

The tower, which gives its name to the site known as Torrazzo, has more evident traces, but it is more complicated to try and understand what shape the fort would have been, probably quadrangular between the 11th and 12th centuries, but enlarged in the 13th. You can still see some parts of the walls of the antique building that were absorbed by the walls built later on.

As already mentioned, in the mid-13th century the castrum was totally renovated, using in part the materials of the previous structure, which was razed to the ground, and in part limestone and sandstone, materials that were abundant in the area.
The bridge house, the name used to identify the main structure of the fortification, was divided into two rooms, and the surrounding walls branched off like a natural extension of one of the walls, more precisely the southern one, of the main room of the bridge house. The great tower, 20 metres high and almost 5 metres in diameter, refers back to this construction phase.

One of the most interesting discoveries that the excavations, which were started in 2000, brought to light was certainly tied to the reason why this military base was abandoned.
The destruction of the castle, which we can safely say dates back to the 14th century, was not caused by a military conflict, as the conditions of the great tower could lead to believe when seen for the first time, but as a result of a methodical demolition operation, as witnessed by the remaining sections of the structures, which show the signs of pick marks. The “mine technique” was used on the tower, in other words 70-80 cm of stones were replaced by wooden stays which were then set alight together with the foundations, so causing the demolition.

Even though little remains from the subsequent destruction of the castrum, the material recovered includes everyday objects like silver coins, and also the remains of animals, on the basis of which it is possible to reconstruct the basic food eaten during that period.
The archaeological surveys, which are moving towards the San Biagio church area and the higher section of the castle village, are revealing different wall structures, which only continuation can interpret correctly.

Visiting Brina castle in some senses can be compared to our idea of a Medieval village that has just seen the end of a war, as can be suggested by the ruins of the walls, but above all the image of a great tower resting on one side, as if it had been bombarded a short time before our arrival. Listen to the audioguide 2 to understand how this military base at a certain point lost its role in relation to the surrounding territory.

Mappa
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