By now everybody’s heard about the presumed site of Tom and Katie’s upcoming nuptials. But an Access Hollywood investigation (actually we just did a lot of reading) reveals that Odescalchi Castle, 30 miles north of Rome, has a colorful, and dark past.
Built on the shores of Lake Bracciano starting in the second half of the 15th century, the castle today is seen as one of the most beautiful feudal castles in all of Europe.
Among the highlights; a wide entry hall with a circular staircase leading to the study which, along with the library, is know as Pope’s Hall, since Pope Sixtus IV visited there in 1481. Other features are the Hall of Caesars (with busts of 12 Caesars), the Hall of Hercules and the Hall of Arms (with an apparently staggering collection of medieval weapons).
Now here’s the spooky part: the castle was built for the powerful Orsini family of Rome. In 1553, Paolo Giordano I Orsini (who later because the first Duke of Bracciano, the town nearby) was engaged to Isabella de’ Medici (a descendant of the powerful and famous art and architecture patrons). She was 11 at the time but didn’t marry Paolo until she turned 16. In the meantime Paolo developed a reputation described today as “ruthless, violent and rude.” One of his hobbies was making war. Needless to say the marriage wasn’t all that great, and before long, the castle was abuzz with talk about her as well as him.
Seems that the Duchess’ chamber, when she was staying at the castle, had a secret door. Legend has it that in 1576 Isabella de Medici used the door to let her lovers into her private room. Those she grew bored with were sent hurtling to their deaths down a spiked well which she could open just to the other side of the secret opening. Ouch!
Meanwhile the Duke was no dummy. He kept spies, who told him what was going on. While he and the Duchess were at their family home near Florence, Paolo strangled her (actually garrotted her) at the dinner table, while he pretended to give her a kiss.
Unfortunately, the Duke didn’t know when to quit, so after the murder he fled to Rome where he became involved with someone else’s wife (the husband was the nephew of a future pope). Not satisfied with that as a coup de grace, Paolo later had the husband killed.
No doubt feeling bad kharma in hot puruist, Paolo and his mistress fled to Northern Italy. They were married but Paolo died in the same year, 1585.
So what does this have to do with the weekend wedding? According to legend, Isabella’s ghost appears from time to time in places where she lived. And, oh, the name: Tom Cruise’s daughter is named... Isabella.