The baptismal churches of Santa Maria Maddalena of Desenzano and San Biagio of Rivoltella don’t appear to be of ancient foundation and offer many problems of interpretation (written documents and material finds) that is discussed later. They are cited in the diploma of Eugenio III of 1145, who acknowledged the jurisdiction of the bishop of Veronaover both churches.
The corte of Desenzano appears in a diploma of Charlemagne in 878 in favour of the monks of San Zeno, a document that has been highly interpolated, and comprehends fields, woods, pastureland, two small hills and mills up as far as Maguzzano.To these possessions the emperor adds, other than the castle and the church, a holding on the island of Garda and the fishing rights on the lake from Peschiera to the Rocca of Manerba and to Scovolo and all the woods of Lugana. This part of the document has been apparently interpolated, in that it seems highly unlikelythat at the end of the IXthcentury there existed alreadythe castles of Desenzano and the Rocca of Manerba, founded not before the Xth century and only mentioned later in the documentary sources. The first citation for Desenzano is in 1107 when Countess Matilde, the widow of Ugone, the count of Desenzano, leaves to the monastery of San Tommaso of Acquanegra possessions both within and without the castle. The Rocca is first cited in 1090, when Uberto, the son of the defunct Arduino, count of Parma, there underscribes a document.
In its genuine part, the document of 878 confirms the passage to the royal fiscal regime (first Lombard and then Carolingian) of a large property. Most probably belonging formerly to the villa of Desenzano, localised in the “royal borough” (a rather significant place-name) and not far from the baptismal church of Santa Maria, In 1145 the corte, the castle and the church were under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Verona, to whom must have been a vassal the count of Desenzano (cited in the document of 1107). Successively it became the feud of the family da Pocarale who then in 1221 restitutedthe rights of the castle to the bishop, who in his turn ceded it to the local town council, Outside the castle, from 1078, is recorded the presence of a village.
The baptismal church of Santa Maria Maddalena was completely rebuilt starting from 1586 and now we can’t know if a liturgical element with an interlaced motif (IXth century), now walled into a nearby house, in via Mazzini 23, was originally from the church. The antiquity of the place of worship is therefore hypothetical, as is its initial use perhaps as a chapel in the royal court, as a donation of Charlemagne. In the pastoral visits at the start of the sixteenth century, some churches are recorded as being subject to Santa Maria Maddelena. In 1530 they are San Giorgio, three miles away and diruta, San Lorenzo at a mile and a halfand San Bernadino of Centenaro, five miles away.
San Benedetto, a rural church, now disappeared, was built on the extra muros from the Roman villa; in 1541 it was demolished and moved in alio loco.
Sant’Ambrogio in the castle, documented in the first half of the XIIth century in a brief “recordationis” of Polirone (Regesturn Mantuanum, n.28), was renovated from 1509 onwards and is recorded in a pastoral visit of 1541, It was in a sector of the castle that, judging from the Napoleonic land registry map, seems to part of the fourth phase of the fortification. The first (XI-XIIthcentury?) was probably a nucleus with a rectangular plan and rows of houses; the secondthat includes the lower part of the tower entrance gate with itsembossed cornerstone that dates it to the XIIIth century sees a slight enlargement; the third phase, in the XIV-XVth century consisted in the redoubling the size of the castle towards the south and is identifiable for thelowered rounded arches and the ravelin in front of the entrance gate and the enlargement of the north east corner linked to the ravelin and the heightening of the tower; only in the fourth phase, at the beginning of the XVIth century, when the castle had lost its military function, were the church and the five sets of houses erected on the north-easternly side. A last fifth phase were the nineteenth century demolition of some internal buildings and the construction of the barracks on the northern and western sides.
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Middle ages on Garda