La Rocchetta Mattei

Rocchetta_08Rocchetta Mattei_foto Gabriele Zanarini (1024x678)

The mysterious castle of Count Cesare Mattei: politician, “healer”, alchemist and architect.

Bologna - 17 May 2017 - Karina Mamalygo

Over the centuries the land around the valley of the River Reno halfway between Bologna and Pistoia has held great strategic value. In the 11th century a fortress was constructed in the hills by Matilda of Canossa. It was on the ruins of this mediaeval structure that Cesare Mattei built his own castle in the 19th century.


Cortile dei Leoni © Gianluca Simoni

The Lion Courtyard © Gianluca Simoni

In 1849 this eccentric Bolognese aristocrat, entrepreneur and philosopher, found he was disenchanted with politics. He decided to abandon parliament and dedicate his life to the study of alternative medicine. The 40-year-old Count purchased the land and designed a castle in a style that reflected his ideals. These were the enjoyment of solitude while immersed in natural beauty and inspiring architecture. At the same time he carried out medical research and treated the sick. He called his “natural” medicine “elettromeopatia” but its secrets have not come down to us.


It is interesting to note that in his 1879 novel “The Brothers Karamazov”, Dostoyevsky has the Devil mention the name of the alchemist and doctor.

While complaining to Ivan Karamazov he states “I was so desperate that I wrote to Count Mattei in Milan. He sent me a book and some drops. May God bless him”.


The architecture of the castle is highly eclectic. It brings together neo-romantic and neo-gothic styles combined with Moorish and Oriental elements, along with touches of Art Nouveau. There are sculptured columns, carved balconies and statues of Lions that recall gothic Venice. Oriental motifs, inspired by Samarkand and Bukhara, are etched onto the walls in a type of stone lacework. There is a central courtyard with its Lion Fountain, where a marble plaque on the wall announces “the miniature reproduction of the courtyard of the Alhambra, the famous fortress of Granada”. While black and white arcades recall the marvellous mosques of Andalusia.


 Balconata Tomba del Conte © Gabriele Zanarini

The Count’s tomb balcony © Gabriele Zanarini

The Rose window with its portrait of Count Mattei shows him not only as the founder of the castle but also as an entrepreneur of the local bank the Cassa di Risparmio di Bologna.  In fact it was the same bank that financed the restoration of this architectonic gem between 2005 and 2014, providing us with an inspiring monument to aesthetic research and free spirit.



Rocchetta Mattei

Riola, Bologna

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