The War of the Castle of Love
One of the most amusing, albeit dramatic, events of the 13th century was the so-called ‘War of the Castle of Love.’
The story began in Treviso on May 19, 1214, during the Pentecost festival, where, as per the city’s popular tradition, a wooden castle was erected and adorned festively. From its battlements, the most graceful maidens of the city stood guard to defend it.
It is told how the rustic people of Padua discovered how the maidens of Treviso and Padua were more sensitive to the ducats and pomp of the Venetians than to their own chickens and tortellini, and how wounded…
Around the impromptu fortress, young nobles from nearby cities crowded, intending to assault both the castle and the hearts of the maidens.
Many young men had gathered, not only from Treviso but also from Padua, Venice, and Chioggia.
They advanced in the enterprise, proudly united around the banner of their respective cities.
In the make-believe, the weapons of contention were to be harmless: flowers, sweets, confetti, witty and gallant jokes.
However, the competitive, parochial, and masculine spirit of the young men, combined with unclear competition rules, led to the challenge escalating.
The Paduans resorted to fruits and various edibles, while the Venetians managed to capture the girls’ attention by flaunting glittering gold ducats before them.
The Paduans – perhaps envious or perhaps teased by the Venetians – driven by anger, tore the St. Mark’s standard from the hands of the Venetian standard-bearer and threw it to the ground, tearing it to shreds.
The festive and playful atmosphere maintained until that moment… froze.
It resulted in a fierce brawl, followed by armed hostility between the respective cities, which, in the subsequent months, even saw an alliance between the Paduans and the Trevisans united to plunder the Venetian hinterland, coming close to threatening Chioggia.
They even assaulted a castle (this time, a real one): the Bebbe Castle, defending the borders of the Serenissima on the side of Padua, Adria, and Ferrara.
But here, as the legend goes, the unforeseen occurred: fate favored the Venetians!
A sudden, high tide flooded the enemy camp of the Trevisans and Paduans: the soldiers of the Serenissima managed to break the siege and scatter the opponents.
The resulting peace was sealed on April 9, 1216, with the condition that Padua hand over to the Venetians the fifteen young men who had been responsible for the disturbances in Treviso.
And Padua, now exhausted by the cost of the conflict, finally accepted.
As a tribute to safely retrieve its young men, the powerful Doge Pietro Ziani, however, did not demand money from the Paduans, but …two white chickens instead of each young man!
A ransom that, as the chronicles tell, wounded the pride of the inhabitants of the city of Saint Anthony much more than the expense of any sum. ☺️ 😄