Frederick II, Emperor and King in the thirteenth century, held a level of power and an attitude toward the church that earned him the title of Antichrist from Pope Gregory IX. Among his many gifts and accomplishments, Frederick designed and built Castel del Monte. This unique octagonal castle has octagonal towers at each corner, and a commanding view of the surrounding plains and hills. The castle has been a story inspiration for me since I first heard of it.
The isolated location in Apulia is said to have been Frederick’s hunting lodge. However, within four decades of building it, Frederick’s heirs had been defeated, and the lodge was made a prison. Count of Provence Charles of Anjou, with the backing of the church, was crowned King of Naples, and subdued Frederick’s lands in southern Italy. In those lonely towers of Castel del Monte, Charles imprisoned three of Frederick’s grandsons. They were young children at the time, and they remained chained and guarded—and some say blinded by Charles—for more than thirty years.
I visited Castel del Monte on a warm and clear fall afternoon, and wandered through the towers, haunted by the story of the children growing to manhood, and madness, in chains. When I see the castle, their story calls to me.
Inspiration for others:
I love stories that feature a building with secrets and personality. Houses provided story inspiration for The House of the Seven Gables by Hawthorne and Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.
I’ve read that Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame hoping to generate interest in the cathedral he loved. Welsh author Ken Follet, already a successful writer of thrillers, visited Peterborough Cathedral in England and the architecture so impressed him that he wrote Pillars of the Earth about the building of a great cathedral, which became his best-selling book.
Melanie Dobson wrote Chateau of Secrets after visiting a medieval chateau in Normandy where the French resistance operated, hiding out in tunnels under and around the chateau, and risking their lives in the defense of France.
Manderley, the setting of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, is based on a home that the author coveted for many years. She walked through the grounds and even through the abandoned house many times, but her interest in purchasing it was always thwarted. Eventually, Du Maurier’s obsession with the house sparked a novel of obsession, which was published five years before she was finally able to buy the house in 1943.
What about you?
Is there a building you have seen or visited that brings a story to life in your imagination? Please share in the comments!
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