Palazzo Monacelle

Palazzo Monacelle

The fief of Casamassima came into being in the 8th century under Lombard rule around a mansion called “The Castle,” next to a wall surrounded by 33 towers that were destroyed by Hungarian troops in 1348. In the 11th century it was inhabited by the first feudal lord of the time, Guido Da Venosa, and it passed to the Massimi family by the will of Henry VI, with the obligation to change the family surname to Casamassima.

Frederick II took the fief away from the family, and it was returned to them by Conrad IV in 1252. The structure underwent numerous renovations over the centuries, and what remained was incorporated into the Ducal Palace, in which the surviving element from the 1100s is an external Norman tower, while an Aragonese portal enhances its entrance.

In the 17th century, the lord of the area, Miguel Vaaz, made a vow to the Madonna of Constantinople to drive out the plague from the land. He issued an order by which the building had to be painted blue, through to the addition of aluminum in the paint mixture, in remembrance of the mantle of the Virgin Mary. This color is still seen today in the narrow streets of the historic center, becoming its distinctive characteristic in comparison to the typical historical centers of towns in Puglia, made of chianche (limestone slabs) and exclusively of white plaster.

A characteristic landmark on Aldo Moro Square is the pyramid-shaped Clock Tower, built in 1841, defining the new entrance to the historic center.
The present-day structure of Palazzo Monacelle was adapted from an old building that belonged to the De Bellis family. Don Domenico Console, who was the last owner, donated the building to the Orphanage of the Addolorata, thus becoming a great monastic complex that held one of the first music conservatories in the province of Bari. Today the complex is home to the Municipal Library, standing on a square named after Don Domenico Console.

The Church of the Addolorata (Sacred Heart), now deconsecrated and used as an auditorium, is annexed to the large 16th-century former monastic complex of the Monacelle, at the rear of which remains the striking Baroque bell tower with an onion spire. It was built in 1800 by Domenico Console and was the seat of a regionally renowned music conservatory directed by the Oblates of the Addolorata.