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Tales and legends

Like all castles, the castle in Cison di Valmarino is a fascinating and mysterious place, and has always been a source of legends ad tales. Historical events, popular fantasy, envy or lust for revenge against the ruler gave birth to often scary and obscure legends set in the middle ages or in more recent times. These legends sometimes took the form of rumors or countryside stories, and were passed on from father to son during the “filò”, a traditional occasion for the telling of stories.



IUS PRIMAE NOCTIS


The figure that above all gave rise to fantasies and rumours was the count. Brave soldier and exclusive landowner who was entitled to properties and people, he was the cause of mixed feelings, among which gratitude for the benefits granted, admiration, reverence, and fear. It is said that the count sharecroppers and lessees would wear their best clothes to attend his hearings and that, when the count walked by, they had to bow: no bowing meant punishment.


But some people had good memories of the count, too: not only did he pay for the education of the children of some villagers, but he also understood their difficulties (some corn or beans offered to the farmhands would mean their survival). Hereby we will try to collect the extracts from tales and stories that, rich of events and memories, have reached us  through the centuries and that will help give us a piece of our history, the history of the emotions and the humours of a community. Interestingly, we will find out to which extent imagination and reality have been mixed up.
The story goes that the pretty women from the county were forced to spend their first wedding night with the count (‘ius primae noctis’). After the nuptials  the brides were taken from their dwellings into the Lord’s boudoir, on the castle’s first floor. The intercourses often ended on a negative note for the unlucky girls or for their husbands who dared to challenge the Lord’s right. One night a woman strongly rejected the advances of the Lord and he got so upset that he beheaded her and then threw her head into a trapdoor built in the boudoir for such events. The woman’s head rolled down the mountain’s ridge, screaming its innocence. The cries were so loud and tearing that they were heard all over the valley. Allegedly the opening really existed: it is said that during the first world war countess Serra entered the hole to escape from the German attacks and reached safety. The count was so feared among the villagers that some argue they saw him every full moon night wander on his white warhorse around the castle looking perhaps for his lost soul.


THE INSTRUMENTS OF TORTURE
If the count was feared, the bravoes who always accompanied him were not feared any less. Trusted bodyguards, these cutthroats were always ready to fight with their swords and with their loaded arquebus and were often sent to
warn and scare the villagers. The legend tells that during their evening raids the bravoes were so confident that they wouldn’t be punished that they kidnapped the girls they met. After harassing the girls, they would drop them into a well equipped with a system of rotating knives. It is said that the well ended in a canal that flew down the valley into a stream. Some say they saw the stream water turn red, others argue they noticed some animals eating the remains of the mutilated bodies. Other people report that the trapdoor was in the castle courtyard so that the crimes could be perpetrated far away from prying eyes. Only the servants knew how things were and that’s why a painting of the goddess Fortune was hanging as a warning in their rooms. The destiny of the girls could occur to anyone. These legends are not linked to the Brandolini only, but also to their predecessors, the Da Camino. The Caminesi, feudatories of the castle in the low Middle Age, were well known for the use of torture. Beside the most classical instruments of torture, one in particular was very feared. Still today in the west side of the fortress old theatre a niche stands out. "In the old times in the top part of the niche there was a swivel run by a wheel located outside the fortress". The victims were blindfolded and then dropped in the well beneath the fortress. It was a convenient place where the Lord could get rid of or torture his enemies, spies and whomever undermined the family power. The legend recounts that every year on the day of the dead you can hear the sad wails of the souls of those executed in the well, awaken by the horrible hissing of an awful snake.


GILBERTO AND AMELIA
The nineteenth century writer Pietro Beltrame was very attracted by the castle appeal, and in 1847 he set the romantic tale of Gilberto and Amelia within the castle sturdy medieval walls. Gilberto, proud and generous knight, was deeply in love with Amelia his wife. Gilberto and and Amelia lived a quiet life; but one day he was called upon to serve God and become a crusader to conquer the Holy Land.

Amelia accepted the parting with resignation and embroided a red cross on her husband’s garment. Upon leaving, Gilberto broke his wife’s necklace in two pieces: he gave one to Amelia and kept the other for himself. Amelia would have to stay faithful until the two pieces were united again. But the crusade lasted long and Amelia waited in vain for years. Hope gradually faded away and her love for Gilberto begun to grow colder. One day during a hunt her horse was startled by a bear, and she would have fallen had the horse not be tamed by the mighty hand of Isoardo, young lord of Mura. It was love at first glance. The two did not meet for a long time afterwards, until the news arrived from the Holy Land that Gilberto had been deadly wounded on the battlefield. Amelia was shocked and rode off without an aim. Isoardo, who had received Gilberto’s will from the hands of two crusaders by mistake, joined her. A little bit later on Isoardo and Amelia got married. On that day an unknown knight, his face hidden by his visor, arrived at the castle and asked for hospitality. He was invited to the banquet and he begun to tell a story about a necklace, and a woman who had sworn an oath. At those words Amelia suddently realized who he was and fainted. Gilberto threw his glove and the necklace on the table and took on his rival, as he was blinded by jealousy and lust for revenge. In vain did the two lovers try to escape his rage. Their flight ended tragically at the Revine Lake, where they died. Their bodies heve never been found and lie still at the bottom of that lake.


THE SMALL CHURCH IN SOLLER Some real events have been turned into frightening legends that would perfectly suit a horror movie by popular immagination. One in particular dates back to 1652, to the middle of XVII century, an age of violence and abuse, famine and plague perfectly described by the most famous novel by Alessandro Manzoni. Feuds were particularly frequent at that time and went on for generations. The protagonists of one of these feuds were the nobleman and fierce soldier Brandolino VI and the rich merchant Paolo Savoini. Hatred between the two families had apparently sparked off owing to contrasting business interests or perhaps to jealousy.


On a fateful day, Brandolino VI was caught in the middle of a rainstorm near the hills of Campea and found shelter in a nearby cottage. His foe Paolo Savoini had found shelter in the vicinity, and at the sight of Brandolino he loaded his arquebus with a bended coin and shoot him to death. He then bacame a fugitive, but a feud inevitably begun. When he returned seventeen years later, common friends who realised the situation was a delicate one, invited the two families to give up their fight.  Representatives of the Brandolini and of the Savoini communicated in Venice before a number of Venetian noblemen. But peace was only apparently restored: revenge was soon to be taken. The following night Savoini’s body was found in a narrow Venetian street: he died after receiving eighteen stabs. Brandolino VI was then avenged by his nephew who, perhaps out of remorse, had the small votive church of Soller erected.


THE CUNNING PRIEST
In the past, a small church was traditionally built in the dwelling place of noble families, and the castle of Cison was no exception with its church dedicated to St. Martin. A priest looking after the counts’ souls and celebrating masses in the church normally lived at the castle. In the XIX century, the Counts asked a retired priest to celebrate a mass in that church every Sunday and offered him a house at the village in exchange. Since he was not staying at the castle, the priest was not used to the Counts’ habits and manners. He was one day invited to lunch at the castle. The table was sumptuously laid with silver cutlery and the cuisine was excellent, and the priest wanted to make a good impression, so he started to taste the food slowly, preaching abstinence and frugality. When the Count, who was no talkative person, had finished his food, the dishes were taken away and the priest had to say goodbye to the delicious food he had smartly left for the end-of-meal, and went back to the village quite upset. Hunger sharpens one’s wits, and when he was invited for the second time, the priest brought some string tied to his frock. When the chicken was served, he tied the string to one leg, so that when the dish was taken away, the chicken leg fell to a side. The cunning priest promptly put it away and had it later for dinner.


Further information:
Tradizione orale raccolta a Cison 
L'Azione, anno 1969
E. Dall'Anese - P.Martorel, Storie e leggende. Il quartier del Piave e la Val Mareno, Vittorio Veneto, 1980.