The Lunigiana Stele Statue Museum is in the Piagnaro Castle of Pontremoli (MS). Its very suggestive collection tells about one of the most important phenomena of megalithic europe. The Stele Statues, abstactly represented male and female human figures, were engraved in sandstone by peoples who lived between the IV and the I millenium b.C. and are still in part a mystery. These prehistoric and protostoric images that feature heads shaped like a “carabiniere’s” hat and U-shaped faces are classified in three different groups (A,B,C) by archaeologists; they were made between the Copper and the Iron Age and have survived centuries, sometimes hidden, or used for purposes that have often changed their shape and function. Nowadays the Stele Statues are all in all the symbol that identifies Lunigiana, the Magra river valley where all the findings have been made. The Stele Statue Museum is the most representative in Italy as for the number of findings exhibited and the infomation on the sites in which the findings were made, on the material and on the tecniques used.
Since 1975 the Stele Statue Museum is in the suggestive location of the Piagnaro Castle. The Museum is the result of the dedicated and inspired work of Prof. Augusto Cesare Ambrosi who, after the field work in the 1950’s and 60’s and the creation of a first archeological collection at Casola in Lunigiana, strongly wished the Steles should be gathered toghether in a place of prestige at Pontremoli. The new set-up of the Museum ( opened in june 2015 ) in an almost doubled space has allowed to further enhance the charm and the suggestiveness of the Stele Statues.
The Piagnaro Castle is built on the hill that overshadows the center of the town of Pontremoli, and together with the walls and towers of the medieval town is part of its defensive system. Its building began around the year 1000, and from the beginning the function of the castle was to defend the town and control the roads that cross it; it has on more than one occasion been the last bulwark for the inhabitants. The name comes from “piagne”, slabs of sandstone traditionally used in Lunigiana to cover roofs, and that are still visible in the structure. The castle has been used as military barracks, a school and even private housing; in the last 30 years it has been almost completely restored. The present structure, the result of much replanning and rebuilding, features a massive keep ( beginning of the XV cen.) that set on the highest part of the hill, looms over the fortress and still shows traces of the original access set high up on the wall that could only be reached passing over a drawbridge. In front of the keep there is a large main building that has been used as barracks. The rest of the castle has XVII-XVIII cen. defensive structures planned so as to allow for artillery; the large bailey is surrounded by bastions with connecting ramps and corner sentry-boxes. In the Castle there is also a reception point for pilgrims travelling long the Via Francigena.