Cimbergo: The Mergence of Pagan & Christian Symbolism
The Campanine area comprises a large section of the mountain slope located at the foot of the wide glacial terrace where stands the village of Cimbergo, with its ancient castle and the still characteristic old buildings of the inhabited centre. Bordered by sheer drops and towering rock walls, the area sometimes spreads out into well-confined flats, populated today only by the ruins of old dwellings and by awesome forests of centuries-old chestnut trees. The archaeological researches carried out regularly by the Dipartimento Valcamonica e Lombardia of Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici between 1990 and 2009 brought to light and recorded some 100 engraved rocks from this area, only about twenty of which at present have been included in the visitors tour.
The area was first engraved during the late Neolithic (end of 4th millennium BC), then it was scarcely visited in the Copper Age (3rd millennium BC) and in the Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC), only to be reused most intensively during the last millennium BC, throughout the Iron Age, when contacts with the flourishing coeval Italic cultures – notably the Retian-Venetian and the Etruscan – appear more evident. The most common subjects, besides the figures of armed men, which make up by far the dominant theme throughout the Camunian Iron Age, are the shapes of huts, foot prints, water birds, some imaginary animals, Cretan-type labyrinths, square-bladed axes, and human figures of a schematic type (the so called “worshippers”). There are also few figures of “heroes” of remarkable size or displaying particular sacral characteristics , and scenes of hunting, dueling, and mythological.
Beside the prehistoric markings, there exists a rich (and so far unique) concentration of figures from historic times, datable mostly to the 14th and 16th-17th centuries AD. Between witchery and the Catholic tradition, next to the prehistoric figures were then engraved crosses, heraldic symbols, keys, gallows, castles, symbols of the Passion and esoteric-looking figures, testifying the never ending link between the local folks and the charm of the ancient marks engraved on rocks.
The Campanine area, where ancient graffiti mingles with a Latin dedication to Jove and Early Christian symbols, is dominated by the castle of Cimbergo. The castle, suggestive for its sheer position, is surrounded by walls which form a pentagon. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, it is well suited to the landscape and to the irregular conformation of the rock. It was first an Episcopal property, then the property of some local Guelph families, later of the "Pilgrims from Cemmo" and finally of the counts of Lodrone.
Beside the side walls, still partially intact, we can find the rafters of the slabs now fallen. In origin the castle was encircled from a series of walls that degraded in direction of the village of Cimbergo. Very beautiful it is the portal of the entrance, pointed arch, realized with white granite. The importance of this castle is in connection with historical facts: here the peace between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines had been subscribed in 1378, and here the Emperor Barbarossa stayed during his visits in valley. The decadence of this stronghold started during the 16th Century.
In April 2009, for the first time ever, the Soprintendenza ai Beni Archeologici approved archaeological excavations at the medieval site. It represented an excellent occasion for me to discuss with the archaeologist supervisor in charge of the excavations about conservation and preservation/restoration methods applied in medieval sites.