Along the highway that connects Potenza to Melfi, you venture into the wide spaces of the Vitalba Valley. It is a unique scenario, between fields and small villages hidden in the hills, which extends up to the splendid and imposing Mount Vulture. Before reaching the extinct volcano, however, the gaze cannot help but linger on the imposing castle of Lagopesole which dominates the landscape, giving the illusion that time has stopped here, nevertheless the roads and industrial buildings around.
The medieval manor of the Frederick era stands at about 820 meters high. In its most magnificent past, it was one of the places loved by Frederick II, who usually wandered around it to observe, study birds and to prey. The name of the Lagopesole castle, however, is linked above all to the emperor’s son, the blond Manfredi, who is said to have loved this austere palace and the dense woods of the Vulture much more than the sumptuous palace of Palermo.
The original layout of the fortress has undergone some changes over time, in particular by Charles I of Anjou who locked up here some of the most influential personalities of his time.
This is the case of Elena, Manfredi’s wife, segregated in the castle after her husband was killed by Anjou in the battle of Benevento, in the year 1266.
The story tells us of the great love that united this two young people, Elena Ducas – Degli Angeli – daughter of the despot of Epirus Michael II and Teodora Petralife, saint of the Orthodox Church – and the well-educated son of the stupor mundi.
The two got married in 1259 in Trani and had 4 children. In Lagopesole they used to spend many sweet hours with the family, until the massacre of Manfredi when Elena was imprisoned by Charles I of Anjou right inside the manor. Her children were taken to Castel del Monte. The woman remained locked up in Lagopesole for a long time, before ending her days in the castle of Nocera Inferiore in 1271, when she was only 29 years old.
Legend says that even today the spirits of the two restless lovers seek each other in the valleys of the Vulture, without ever being able to meet.
Manfredi is said to wander through the woods, dressed in green, on the back of the splendid white horse, evoking the name of his beloved. Elena’s soul, according to the legend, would still be imprisoned inside the castle of Lagopesole.
Every day, at sunset, there are those who swear they hear a poignant cry, which tightens the heart. It comes within the walls of the fortress while the rooms are covered by an impalpable white shadow. It’s Elena Degli Angeli. Her gost, who never stops looking for her loved one inside the castle.