The Avanzini Tower

THE AVANZINI TOWER

The tower, that dominates the profile of the country, emerges mighty from the buildings, which partly surround its basement and you can totally have a free look only at the side of Vicolo Santa Maria (Saint Mary’s Alley), where it links up with an old building that has a portal with pentagonal ashlars that bears the date 1622.
It preserves intact the original volume and, at its top, the typical medieval structure, which is frequently found in the country but it is not always so clearly visible.
In fact, Bienno had a lot of towers; this is evidence of its extraordinary wealth already solid in the late medieval period.
Some of them are recognizable, however, they are partially affected by restructuring; on the contrary, other towers are incorporated within successive structures: for example, within Renaissance Palaces that were often built around a medieval complex.
Towers are a typical medieval building that had a defensive mounting for a residential complex and they are themselves a fortified residence.
The prevalent defensive need required the reduction to the essential of residential areas and the creation of mighty and insurmountable walls, with few and rare openings.
The towers were expanded in height with a masonry fence with a square basement, which was inside separated by wooden slabs; there were, in that way, a series of overlapping and unique rooms.
On the ground floor, a masonry vault served as a barrier for the upper storeys, to which was possible climbing up a staircase only from the outside that could be withdrawn in case of danger.
The Avanzini tower has a nearly square plan, which measures externally 830 X 780centimetres. The walls have a thickness of more than 135centimetres at their base. It reaches a height of about 17metres.
THE WALLS
The medieval buildings have walls made up of large squared blocks, carefully laid one on the top of the other, with edges that are defined and reinforced by large angular stones.
The basement of the Avanzini tower that you can see at Vicolo Santa Maria (Saint Mary’s Alley) is made up of large stones of different size, which are carefully mounted.
This masonry texture, which dates back to the original structure of the tower, presents in the upper areas some variations that witness the ancient and subsequent renovations. In fact, an intermediate area is characterized by large stones that are irregularly placed, whereas a subsequent level is made up of long square stones, which are aligned on horizontal courses.
In Via Contrizio (Contrizio’s Street), too, for the part that rises out of the building that recently sets against it, the tower has non-homogeneous masonry textures.
Still at the top, where the tower is visible from all four sides, you can see the big cornerstones, alternatively overlapped in the two orthogonal directions of the edge, link up each other with faades.
THE OPENINGS
The towers had rare and small gates and windows, not only for defensive purposes but also for the real difficulty of “breaking” the thick and mighty walls. In fact, the openings were under the huge load of the overlying structure in order to support them and for this reason, there were used arches that had contained amplitudes and, on the contrary, the beams were made up of large monoliths placed on abutments necessarily closed.
The medieval openings are usually bounded by shaped stones in an essential and functional way, with abutments that are often created in the walls; therefore they are perfectly integrated in form, material and colour to the wall itself.