The Tower of Sonvico

The small village of Sonvico is located at a fairly high altitude, on the road to Fraine, and is divided into the Lower and Upper villages. The name (from Summus Vicus = highest village) originally referred only to the upper village, whilst the lower one was called, until almost the end of the 18th Century, Zenzese, or Zenzezio, as can be demonstrated by examining the Town Property Evaluation Register of 1672 and the Napoleonic Land Register. According to the scholar Alessandro Sina, the name may derive from an original chapel dedicated to St. Genesius, of which, however, no trace remains. A community existed inside the universitas of Pisogne with its own vicinia which included the lands of Sonvico and Zenzese and in different eras over time, also Gratacasolo.

In Upper Sonvico, alongside the road at the entrance of the village, the remains of a medieval tower, still legible to a height of about ten meters stand out. The original building was certainly of a greater height and there are visible signs of demolition and rebuilding but, especially on the southern face, there are some architectural elements that allow you to evaluate the structure. It is to be excluded that the tower dates back to the Roman era or early Middle Ages as 19th Century scholars suggested. From the examination of the characteristics of the surviving parts it is, however, possible to hazard a date of around the 13th Century, or at the most at the end of the 12th Century. There are no known documents that speak, even indirectly, of the building, and therefore it is not possible to determine who is responsible for its construction. The first reliable data are obtained from the 19th Century land register records. The small settlement which includes the tower, along with other buildings facing west, makes up the Sorec district, distinct from that of Sonvico. Both in 1810 and in 1853, it belongs to the Municipality of Pisogne (in 1810 is still remembered as the Vicinia of Sonvico), and this leads to the assumption that the building was part of the bishop’s properties acquired by the community in 1462. What is certain, however, is that at the beginning of the 19th Century the building was in ruins, registered as a ruined house in 1810 and as a ruined tower area (and therefore with a very low value) in the Austrian period.

However, it should be noted how the tower does not appear among the few assets owned by the Vicinia of Sonvico in the Town Property Evaluation Register in 1672. Despite the absence of reliable data,  it is conceivable that the property belonged to Antonio Garattini, the largest property owner in the village at that time.

The building was restructured towards the end of the 20th Century: in the front façade the readability of the masonry and architectural elements has been preserved, even with the use of cement for the reconstruction of the joint sealings. The demolition and masonry reconstruction line is fairly evident above the double portal, already seen in the images prior to restoration, which affects a large part of the third level. We have to imagine works performed after the land register survey conducted in the mid-19th Century, and therefore perhaps in the second half of the century, to restore functionality to the ruins. The original part of this side is formed by the first level, with the stone ashlar main door and a five element symmetrical arch, with extensive bevelling compatible with that of the stone corners of the masonry, and the side of masonry that includes the two doors alongside each other, which evidently gave access to two distinct rooms. This refers to the type of the torrazzo, a fortified building like a tower-house but usually lower in height and rectangular shaped. Above the two doors there are two shelves that used to house a beam that supported the lodge roof structure. It is therefore possible that originally the roof of the building roof was built completely within a crenellation.

Given the openings on the southern side, the tower was probably the north-east corner of a larger fortified structure.

Alberto Bianchi



For more information:

BIANCHI A., MACARIO F., In loco de Pisoneis. Pisogne 1299: il borgo del vescovo, Pisogne 2008, pp. 102-104.

Iniziativa realizzata nell’ambito del bando Wonderfood & Wine di Regione Lombardia e Unioncamere Lombardia per la promozione di Sapore inLOMBARDIA

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