Extensive and thorough archival research has failed to produce a founding date or the name of the builder of the castle or of its original settler. It has, however, allowed the discovery of the oldest document which records the existence of the castle in 1192. It is a privilege from Pope Celestine III confirming that the Castrum Carbonane belongs to Bentivoglio, the bishop of Gubbio.
The castle’s original purpose clearly seems to have been defensive but its importance became all the greater as water powered mills appeared and marked an significant economic and financial development of the surrounding territory.
As a result of the progressive loss of temporal power by the Church, Carbonana Castle came under the control of Bino di Pietro dei Gabrielli in the early 14th century. The Gabrielli of Gubbio were one of the most important families of medieval Italy. Those familiar with the story of Dante Alighieri’s life will recall that it was a member of this great family, in fact the older brother of Bino di Pietro, Cante, as podestà of Florence who, in 1302, exiled Dante in absentia.
From the Gabrielli family the castle passes in the early 15th century into the hands of noble Florentines who had fled to Gubbio amidst the intercenine conflicts between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, the Porcelli, later to become the counts of Carbonana. This transfer of title comes about through the marriage of Checca, degli Atti di Sassoferrato, widow of Giacomo dei Gabrielli, to Giacomo di Galeotto Porcelli.
The Porcelli, who take on the namesake Carbonana, are henceforth inseparable from the castle for the next four centuries. Throughout those centuries members of this family will distinguish themselves at the helm of Gubbio’s government, as heroic military at the service of the Venetian Republic or in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, including a cardinalate in the 19th century. It is thanks to the Porcelli family that we owe the decoration of the castle’s chapel, Saint Mary of Carbonana, the expansion of the castle and especially the construction of its elegant round tower in the 16th century. Since that time, the castle has remained essentially untouched.
The Porcelli di Carbonana did not survive the death of the last count, Troiano, in 1886 but the castle did remain the property of a distant family line through General Attilio Gigli who lived in the castle until his death in 1943. His sons sold it to Dr Ludvik Staub in 1963 who sold it in 2008. Dr. Staub died in 2015 in Toronto.
The castle was bought in 2011 by two Canadians who immediately began the challenging task of the complete restoration of this national monument, under the supervision of the Soprintendenza ai Beni Architettonici e Paesaggistici of Umbria.
For the new owners who prefer to be called custodians, the restoration of this beautiful medieval castle would have been incomplete without allowing its stones to tell their story. They commissioned well known and respected historians, archivists, archeologists and art historians to narrate this story. Their collective work gave birth to two important books on the castle which were published in 2015 and 2016 (see Bibliography). For centuries, Carbonana Castle was called home by many generations and so it remains, a private residence, to this day, well preserved to last for many generations to come.