The Romano-Carratelli Code, when history and art converge in an ancient manuscript.

The Romano-Carratelli Code is a manuscript, probably dating back to 1596, on the coastal defensive system of that part of the territory that until 1816 was called Calabria Ultra, or the territory now included in the provinces of Reggio Calabria, Vibo Valentia, Catanzaro and partly of Crotone. This ancient and precious volume is certainly a historical source but also a masterpiece of art. It contains 99 watercolors drawn on watermarked paper which immediately affects the excellent state of conservation of both paper and color. The topographic and military system of the Calabrian coast is represented according to what was to be a larger project conceived by the Spaniards Charles V and Philip II to defend the territory: in the manuscript there are the drawings of the towers, but also forts, panoramic views of the most important military squares, portions of territory still undefended and on which the author shows the strategic need to build suitable structures. As evidenced by Giuseppe Fausto Macri – the first researcher who viewed the Code and baptized it with the name of Romano-Carratelli to give credit to its owner, the homonymous bibliophile from Vibo Valentia – this ancient volume contains information on dimensions, state of the structures, armaments, custody personnel of each tower, and even the cost estimate necessary for the realization of the new works planned. The Code presents an organic vision that brings together the existing settlements with those envisaged, in a dimension of connection with each other to ensure the best possible governance of the territory. It should be remembered that during the period covered by the manuscript (1586-1595) there was the Administration of Viceroy Giovanni di Zuniga e Avellaneda, Count of Miranda, whose policy was oriented precisely to the affirmation of public order and the fight against banditry. So, if it is true that after the battle of Lepanto on 7 October 1571 the Saracen raids decreased considerably and the towers, almost everywhere, were abandoned, it is also true that the danger had not totally escaped and that the fortification system had necessity. to continue to carry out its military functions for centuries to come.
It is easy to understand, therefore, that the punctual dislocation of the towers was a strategic action imposed by necessity and in detail indicated by the “regi tavolari“, and then modulated according to historical contingencies. In this perspective, even if we do not know the author of the Romano-Carratelli Code, which is not indicated anywhere, it is plausible that the task of realizing it is attributable to the Viceroy Conte di Miranda. Teresa Saeli is supporting this theory; she is the wife of the lawyer-bibliophile Domenico Romano-Carratelli, attentive and passionate custodian of the manuscript, which has conducted studies that provide feedback in this regard: << The Code, miraculously appeared after more than four hundred years, has remained unknown as a unique work and classified by the Viceroy Government for reasons of State security. Even then the top secret was in force and during the period we are discussing – the end of the 16th century – the Kingdom of Naples did not have an official organic cartography, and the same works ordered for this purpose to the great cartographers of the Kingdom, in particular Stigliola and Mario Cartaro, were not disseminated >>. To support the hypothesis that the document is of imperial origin we are assisted by Mirella Mafrici, historian and professor at the University of Salerno, which in a scientific production published in 2002 underlines << the intense constructive activity for the restructuring of fortresses, inspected by Juan Sarmientos in 1536: in the report sent to Charles V, he exposed the precarious condition of the factories of Cotrone, Tropea and Amantea, which had no military importance and were not suitable for the protection of population centers or land or sea, as they were free of ammunition and basic necessities […] It is easy to understand, therefore, how the “visit”, or the inspection of the Calabrian defensive structures, was of considerable importance for the time: this kind of visit generally attested to the will of the Neapolitan government to keep the defensive system in the region efficient >>. Beyond the historical clarification about the identity of the author, there remains the enchanting beauty of knowing that such a document exists, duly guarded by Domenico Romano-Carratteli. In 2013 the Calabria Region proposed the candidacy of the Code to the UNESCO program “Memory of the world” for the protection of the documentary heritage, while the Ministry of Cultural Heritage has submitted it to a bond in 2014.

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