The walls of Bergamo. Four centuries of history
The almost thirty years it took to build the walls of Bergamo confirm the importance the Republic of Venice attributed to this work. The Republic seemed unconcerned about the expense not only because it wished to secure Bergamo, but also because it wanted to guarantee and strengthen the defences of its dominion on land near the borders, which coincided with the river Adda. Bergamo was chosen for its strategic position at the mouth of two valleys - Brembana and Seriana - and also to protect the city and its trade. Bergamo was in fact an important trading centre for goods between the port of Venice and Valtellina and central Europe. The inhabitants of Bergamo paid dearly for this security. Almost a quarter of the houses in the city on the hill (approximately 250 buildings) were demolished, and its ancient appearance was completely changed. The Bergamask people tried in vain to prevent this upheaval, but on 31 July 1561 the Governor General, Count Sforza Pallavicino, entered the city and immediately gave the orders for work to commence. Four thousand demolition workers were employed, while a guard of 550 soldiers watched over the streets and squares to prevent disorder. According to the initial project, work should only have continued for a few months, enough to make a series of ramparts and reuse and reinforce the old walls. The original plan was instead quickly abandoned, and it was decided to build a completely new stone wall along the entire course, which was ultimately almost
The lie of the land was totally changed. Slopes were transformed into escarpments, dips were built up, hills were levelled. In order to retain the ground, the great walls required foundations and support arches, but in spite of this there were collapses and subsidence while dozens of stone- cutters cut the large blocks of sandstone. There were even errors of calculation. The San Lorenzo Gate, for example, was positioned too low down and judged to be indefensible: in 1605 it was closed and reopened 25 years later after a new, more modest gate was built. Today it stands out against the green of the valley with fields of vines and young olive trees. Work continued for almost thirty years with long interruptions during which it seemed that Venice, having modified its strategy, no longer attached great importance to the fortress of Bergamo. The commitment and costs rose enormously and the Republic had to face the growing threat of the Turkish; the walls were completed only in 1588. Work on defences continued however, because San Vigilio Castle needed to be radically altered. Located on a hill behind the city, the castle was a key element in its defence. A covered road connected the castle to San Marco Fort, a powerful structure which, with military quarters and powder magazines, completed the perimeter of the upper walls. Inside the fortress there were military quarters, powder magazines and an arsenal, while along the walls dozens of cannons inside special casemates were positioned to strike the enemy during an attack. The cannons were considered the so- called “active defence”, while the thick walls, their steep sides and the ditch that ran in front made up the “passive defence”. With one hundred cannons mounted on the ramparts, the fortress of Bergamo was now ready, but fortunately for the city and the inhabitants of Bergamo, the walls were never needed. In December 1796 troops from Napoleon’s army arrived and the city fell without a single shot being fired. Today the Walls are candidates to become a Unesco World Heritage for its historical and artistic value, a path taken in 2007 that has finally got to its final stage. The Unesco World Heritage nomination enlists the Walls within the serial and transnational site named “Venetian fortifications between XV and XVII Century”.
n n n n n Baluardo di San Giacomo, il cui elemento forte è la Il percorso, superato