Rocchetta Mattei is one of those places that you would expect to find anywhere but in Italy. But while driving through the Appennino here it is: Rocchetta Mattei, a lovely castle that is full of secrets.
History of the Rocchetta Mattei
The Rocchetta was built by Cesare Mattei beginning in 1850. It is not possible to fully understand the building’s secrets without first understanding Cesare Mattei.
Who was Cesare Mattei?
Cesare Mattei was an Italian doctor in the 1800’s. He is famous because he developed a new medical-science: Electrohomeopathy. This medical treatment was based on the use of non-toxic herbs. It was considered the most widely practiced alternative medicine from 1850 to 1950.
Interestingly Count Mattei was mentioned by Dostoevskji in his novel “The Brothers Karamazov”:
“Philosophy, indeed, when all my right side is numb and I am moaning and groaning. I’ve tried all the medical faculty: they can diagnose beautifully, they have the whole of your disease at their finger-tips, but they’ve no idea how to cure you. […] In despair I wrote to Count Mattei in Milan. He sent me a book and some drops, bless him.”
Nowadays, this therapy is still used in some parts of the world using his name. To cure his patients with the herbs, Cesare Mattei believed that the human body had to be have an equal portion of positive and negative energy. If one of the two energies surpassed the other, people would get sick, and to cure them, the balance must be reestablished. Of course, there is much more to learn about electrohomeopathy, but this introduction serves in order to understand why Cesare choose to live in the Rocchetta Mattei. Cesare used the Castle not only for his home but, also was where he received patients.
Legend has it that the location of the Rocchetta Mattei was chosen by Cesare following his beliefs concerning energy. The spot, in his opinion, was full of energy, so it was perfect for his castle.
The Rocchetta Mattei was built on the ruins of an old medieval castle in the Moorish style, which can be recognized in the domes, courtyards, towers and the chapel (which is identical to the Mosque in Cordoba, Spain). The Rocchetta Mattei reflects different cultures and religions, but most of all the castle is full of Catholic and Masonics symbols (in fact, Cesare Mattei was Catholic and a Mason).
The Castle has an exotic appearance (very similar to the Castle of Sammezzano) . There is no documentation suggesting that Cesare Mattei ever traveled, but he surely was an avid reader of travel books so he knew the architectural styles around the globe really well. This is why a visitor feels they are anywhere but in Italy. The most visible traces are: the Alahambra of Granada and the Mosque of Cordoba.
Another interesting thing about the construction on the Rocchetta Mattei is that there are many illusions. Cesare Mattei, rather than using expensive materials, used cheap materials that seemed luxurious. The most surprising one is a ceiling made with old newspapers which look like wood.
The newspapers hide another surprise, but it is up to you to go and find it and what other secrets are about…
How to visit the Rocchetta Mattei
Until just a few years ago you could only admire the castle from outside. Today, thanks to the Fondazione Carisbo, a part of the castle has been restored. It is, therefore, possible to have a guided tour in Italian for just 7 Euros.
For more info you can visit the official website.