On the rock of Somasca in Vercurago here you are the castle of the Unnamed (castello dell’Innominato) where Lucia was prisoner.
The Castle of the Unnamed doesn’t have a precise location in The Betrothed, but traditionally it is located in Vercurago, in its upper district of Somasca. Here are the remains of the fortress that in the fourteenth century was a castle owned by the Visconti family, even if it was built starting from fortifications belonging to Carolingian period.
The Unnamed is not a literary invention of Alessandro Manzoni, in fact it seems that the writer was inspired by Bernardino Visconti. Tradition tells Visconti lived at the above mentioned castle and his history of crimes, remorses and conversion is reflected in the description of the figure of the Unnamed.
Nowadays the ancient fortress preserved intact the perimeter wall, part of the defensive bastions and some towers, while the indoor spaces and chapels have been largely rebuilt in later times. The original walls were partially damaged by cannon fire by the Austro-Russians against the French, who were holed up at the fortress of Somasca during Lecco’s reconquest in 1799.
The long staircase that leads to the castle is also original and was excavated in the rock. In the sixteenth century part of the old military structure was converted by St. Jerome Emiliani in facilities to accommodate orphans.
Cover image: illustration darft for the edition of The Betrothed dated 1840 Library Braidense
The castle of the Unknown was situated above a narrow and shady valley, on the summit of a cliff, which, belonging to a rugged chain of mountains, was nevertheless separated from them by banks, caverns, and precipices. It was only accessible on the side which overlooked the valley. This was a declivity rather steep, but equal, and continued towards the summit: it was occupied as pasture ground, and its lower borders were cultivated, having habitations scattered here and there. The bottom was a bed of stones, through which flowed, according to the season, a small brook, or a large torrent, which served for a boundary between the two territories. The opposite chain of mountains, hich formed, as it were, the other wall of the valley, was slightly cultivated towards its base; the rest was composed of precipitous rocks without verdure, and thrown together irregularly and wildly. From this castle, as the eagle from his eyrie, its lawless owner overlooked his domain, and heard no human sound above him. He could embrace at a view all the environs, the declivities, the abyss, the practicable approaches. To the eyes of one viewing it from above, the winding path which ascended towards the terrible habitation could be perceived throughout its whole course, and from the windows and loopholes, the signor could leisurely count the steps of the person ascending, and examine him with the closest scrutiny. With the garrison of bravoes which he kept at the castle he could defy an army, which he would have crushed in the valley beneath, before an individual could reach the summit. But none, except such as were friends with the master of the castle, dared set foot even in the valley. Tragical stories were related of some who had attempted the dangerous enterprise, but these stories were already of times long past, and none of the young vassals could remember to have encountered a human being in this place, except under his lord’s authority.
Castello dell’Innominato Vercurago – Fraz. Somasca