Castle of Cosseria
Comune di Cosseria: loc. Chiesa, 1 - Cosseria (SV)
Telefono: 019 51 96 08
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"Cosseria, a Medieval village, the ruins of a castle that narrate events from the Middle Ages up to the 18th century, when Napoleon’s troops fought against the Austrian-Piedmont army. Listen to the audio guides by Liguria Heritage and discover how this village became a part of history".

Cosseria and Napoleon

Towards the end of the 18th century, the battle between the French and the Franco-Savoy armies worsened.
At that point the French had already conquered most of the Ligurian coast up to Savona and, even though there was no favourite between the two armies, the intervention of Bonaparte at the Bormida Valley led to most of Europe being conquered.
The crux of this operation was the separation of the Piedmont troops from the Austrian allies.

Cosseria enters the story at this point. A battery of grenadiers and Croatians, barricaded in the castle ruins, managed to hold up against Napoleon’s army for two days, blocking the advance until the French victory.

Everything took place in just a few days; on 11th April 1796 Napoleon with his troops began invading the area of Cairo and Carcare after having won at Montenotte.
A part of the French troops, withdrawing towards Cossiera, encountered some Croatian troops which, attacked by the French, took refuge in the ruins of Cosseria castle that dominated the valley. At this point the third Piedmont Grenadier Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Filippo Del Carretto, attacked the French.
On the morning of 13th April, just over five hundred men found themselves having to face a much higher number of French troops. Attacking skilfully, the Piedmonts managed to protect Cosseria castle, where at this point more than a thousand men were gathered.

After trying to attack the castle twice, the French were still not able to cross the defensive lines of their enemies and they had also lost more than a thousand men, while in the Piedmont ranks, the most serious loss from among the dead was that of Lieutenant Colonel Filippo Del Carretto, struck to death by French lead.
On 14th April the Piedmont and Croatian troops were forced to surrender; the defenders of Cosseria were granted the honours of war by the French winners while the body of Lieutenant Colonel Del Carretto was carried away in the arms of the survivors.

"Every year the famous “Battle of Cosseria” is commemorated in Cosseria, but this story deserves to be remembered and celebrated every day by the inhabitants or those who visit the place; listen to the Cosseria audioguide 1 and reconstruct what occurred in April 1796".

Filippo del Carretto

It is worth mentioning Filippo Del Carretto when speaking of the conflict that took place in the Bormida Valley; Filippo was a representative of the lineage that had held power for centuries in the area of Savona.
In 1792, many soldiers were enlisted in Piedmont to face the Frank-Jacobin aggression. To defend its boundaries against the armies from the other side of the Alps, Filippo Del Carretto enlisted immediately and took command of the first Frank unit created in 1793 to then distinguish himself the following year at Ponte di Nava.

In the military campaigns that followed, Filippo Del Carretto, in spite of repeated wounds, never abandoned his post and stood out on every occasion because of his bravery.
In the battle of Loano on 23rd November, his heroic actions gained the admiration of both friends and enemies alike.

Towards the end of March 1796, he became commander of the 3rd grenadier battalion, the same battalion that towards mid-April on the slopes of Cosseria fought hard against Napoleon, causing many losses to the enemy.
Unfortunately because of his health, which had been weakened because of repeated wounds, the marquis Del Carretto died on the following 13th April; even on that day he was almost able to escape death thanks to the sacrifice of one of his countrymen, who shielded Del Carretto with his own body, additional proof of the pride and respect that Del Carretto aroused in those who knew him.

"An epigraph, still visible at Cosseria castle, remembers brave Filippo Del Carretto, who enlisted in the Piedmont army against the enemy from the other side of the Alps, Napoleon Bonaparte. Thanks to the Cosseria audioguide 2 you can listen to the story of this hero!"

A medieval castle

The ruins of Cosseria castle stand out from the hilltop where a stronghold was built for access to Piedmont.
Made up of a central body and three protective walls, the castle was polygon in shape, well-protected facing the valley and the hilltop, the points where it could seem to have been more vulnerable to attacks.

Even today we can still see some remains of the protective walls with their large openings for checking the Montecala passage, the underground vaults that were used whenever necessary for storage or as prisons, part of a Castrense chapel and the base of a demolished watchtower.

The village, mentioned in various imperial documents from the mid-10th century as one of the properties that was added to the Aleramici border district, had to surpass many events that threatened the survival and integrity of its castle. As an example, in 1262 Carlo D’Angiò took refuge inside the fort and resisted the attack of the Genoese for a whole year, while in the 14th century the castle was destroyed following the order of the imperial commissioner of Ceva to stop it from falling into enemy hands.

As we have already mentioned, the ruins of Cosseria castle held the Austrian-Savoy-Croatian troops guided by one of the last large land owners in the region, Filippo Del Carretto; for two days they held off the Napoleonic troops commanded by general Pierre Francois Charles Augereau.

"Visit Cosseria, admire the castle remains, the Castrense church and imagine how and why it was built. Listen to Cosseria audioguide 3 for more details!"

The Middle Ages in Cosseria

In spite of its previous existence, which goes back to much earlier epochs, the village of Cosseria became part of history when it was annexed to the property dependent on the Aleramici family border district. “Creux Ferrea”, the antique name of Cosseria, originates from the cross on the peak of Montecala, the dividing line of the Alba and Mondovi dioceses, and it is mentioned during the 10th and 11th centuries in various documents from which we can assume who it belonged to and in which proportions.

As an example, the document regarding the foundation of the San Quintino di Spigno Monferrato abbey establishes that seven small farms of Cosseria were assigned as part of the abbey territory.
Cosseria merged with the dominions of Bonifacio del Vasto in 1091, the same person who decided to donate it, together with Carcare and Millesimo, to the Ferrania abbey in 1111.

Just like the majority of districts in the Cosseria area, it then passed to the marquis of Clavesana, after which it became part of the neighbourhoods belonging to Corrado Del Carretto who, in the middle of the 13th century, took command of the whole Bormida Valley

Handed over in 1393 to the Marquisate of Monferrato, the castle ended up being the object of continuous wars of succession between the Marquisate of Monferrato and the dukedom of Milan. The wars ended only following the decision by the villages of Cosseria and Millesimo to be part of the Milan dukedom, the governor of which, Ferrante I Gonzaga in 1553 ordered the castle to be demolished.

The village never lived peacefully for long, partly because of the continuous changes from one dominion to another, and partly because oppressed by various military conflicts, such as those which between the 16th and 17th centuries saw the opposition of France and Spain, or by the plague that wiped out a large part of the population in 1631. Only with the end of the conflict between the French and the Austrian-Piedmont troops could the land, returning to French dominion, be added to the Ligurian Republic.

The intervention

As part of the integrated programme to restore the network of castles of the Del Carretto marquisate in the towns of Cairo Montenotte, Cosseria and Dego and enhance Napoleonic trails and sites, the work planned for the castle of Cosseria meets the need to improve the building’s accessibility and usability.

The original gateway, church apse, cistern and walls – featuring windows and mullions – are still visible.

This building was entirely abandoned for a long time. Its gradual deterioration is therefore due to the lack of maintenance, weathering and the proliferation of weeds. As part of the programme designed to enhance Liguria’s natural and cultural resources (Priority no. 4 of the 2007-2013 EFRD regional OP), this project intends to make the most important sections of the walls safe and will also include the installation of suitable fencing and lighting to illuminate the castle’s most impressive features, thus making the site entirely accessible and opening it up to tourism and cultural uses.

Nota: Liguria Heritage freely offers services and technological tools but accepts no responsibility for entrance fees to the sites nor their direct management. Please refer to the individuals owners and managers regarding the implementation or changes to entry times, conditions of use and accessibility of the various sites.