The first information about the Rocca Maggiore dates back to 1174, when it was rebuilt after the conquest of Assisi by the imperial troops led by Christian of Mainz (1174); but it perhaps already existed at the time of the Lombards. It is therefore likely that – on the remains of a pre-existing fortification – the fortress had been reconstructed by the Swabians, as feudal castle: narrations of Frederick Duke of Swabia – the future emperor FrederickII – resided there in his youth, hosted by Corrado Lutzen.
The fortress stands on a hill that overlooks Assisi: above its walls stands out the ‘Maschio’ tower, from where you can enjoy a magnificent panorama of the city and of the Umbrian Valley, from Perugia to Spoleto. Since ancient times, the location of the fortress was considered sacred and essential to defend the town.
In 1198 the castle was destroyed following a popular riot to prevent it from falling into the hands of a papal governor: not unreasonably, the Assisans saw in it a symbol of the imperial oppression.
The fortress was rebuilt in 1365 by Cardinal Egidio Albornoz (then engaged in submission of the main cities of the peninsula) as a lookout: a typical example of medieval military architecture. Since then, the fortress was involved in every attempt to be conquered, in alternation, between the various governments, of the lords of different cities and its defensive role ratcheted in time with changes in the structure and with the construction of towers and bastions.
Subsequent to the Albornoz, the fortress was enlarged and modified by Biordo Michelotti (1395-98), from Piccinino (1458), by Pope Pius II (1460), by Sixtus IV (1478), by Paul III (1535) and took on an impressive aspect. It is tradition that the peak of the hill was occupied by an acropolis since the ancient times, but it was devastated in 545 by the Gothic King Totila.
In the 1600s, the fortress was completely abandoned to remain almost intact until the present day.
The fortress built by the Albornoz was enlarged several times with the addition of the ramparts, but was devastated by the population as a result of the unification of Italy (1859).
Currently, it is open to the increasing number of visitors; its towers offer the most beautiful and charming panoramas throughout all of Umbria: Assisi gathered below and the splendid Umbrian Valley. The various halls within host reconstructed themes inspired by medieval life.