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The legend of Aleramo and the birth of Monferrato


Tuesday 17 november 2020

The luxuriant Monferrato, one of the most famous Italian territories, owes its birth to the heroic deeds of a noble man of nomination and spirit

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The legend of Aleramo and the birth of Monferrato

This story begins in Sezzadio, near Acqui Terme, where Aleprando - a German nobleman - and his wife, on a pilgrimage to Rome, were forced to stop in the castle of the local lords because the woman was caught in labor. Here was born Aleramo (from the vernacular Piedmontese "Aler", cheerful). After a few months the parents resumed the pilgrimage leaving the infant in the hands of a nurse and the two never returned. It is not known if it was due to an illness or an ambush along the way, but they were lost track. While waiting for the return of the noble child's parents, the nurse also died, so little Aleramo was welcomed by the owners of the castle of Sezzadio who raised him as their son and educated him as a true knight to the point of making him one of the most nobles of the court.

Abbazia di Sezzadio, ex castello - Claudio Giovanni Colombo (shutterstock.com)
Sezzadio Abbey, former castle - Claudio Giovanni Colombo (shutterstock.com)

Meanwhile, Emperor Otto I went to Italy to quell the revolts of nobles from Brescia by making a request for support to his faithful. The Sezzadio family could not refuse this request. Aleramo left, following the nobles of his family, towards the emperor's camp, perfectly armored. From being polite, speaking polite, with a strong build and a beauty that did not go unnoticed, Aleramo was immediately noticed by the emperor who wanted to know its history. German by birth but Lombard by education, the sad story of the young squire touched the heart of Otto I who decided to let him join his court. But Aleramo, handsome as he was, was noticed not only by the emperor but also by the noblewomen of the court, in particular by Adelasia, the beautiful daughter of the emperor, who certainly did not try to hide her admiration. The two began dating and, inevitably, love was born. An impossible love, as the emperor wanted his daughter in marriage to some noble to sanction new political unions but, although Aleramo was hesitant of the idea, Adelasia convinced her beloved to flee away and one night, dressed in poor clothes and mounting respectively a white horse and a red horse, the two ran away.

Ottone I 
Otto I

Upon discovering their escape, Otto I, angry, unleashed a hunt that drove the fugitives to the lands where Aleramo had spent his childhood making them lose their tracks. The two lovers took refuge in a wood on a hill near the Sezzadio lands (from where you could see Lamio, what is now known as Alassio in honor of the story of Adalasia) but they had no food and hunting was scarce. One day Aleramo discovered a camp of charcoal burners who asked for food in exchange for help. These were happy to comply with this request as there was certainly no lack of work. The young man therefore became a charcoal burner and sold his product at the Albenga market while the beautiful Adalasia, who was good at embroidery, sold her work to the women of the Riviera. One day, the young charcoal burner found himself selling coal to the bishop of Albenga who immediately noticed his elegant and kind ways, so he decided to let him join his servants as an assistant cook. The two lovers had managed to find their peace of mind away from the emperor's searches. A few years passed and in the meantime Aleramo and Adelasia had 4 children.

Albenga - Fabio Lotti (shutterstock.com)
Albenga - Fabio Lotti (shutterstock.com)

But the people of Brescia did not stop with their revolts and the emperor again had to request support from his faithful and the bishop of Albenga did not fail to send some knights with the cook in tow, also half a knight and his assistant. The bizarre cook carried a sign with cooking utensils and black pans on a white background. Carrying this flag and in proud armament, Aleramo threw himself into battle against the enemy and won victory. The rumor of an unknown and courageous knight-cook spread among the emperor's astonished soldiers. Once again the Brescians stepped forward, this time kidnapping the emperor's favorite nephew but he was soon freed by the mysterious knight-cook.

Foto Marcello Capra (Shutterstock.com)
Historical re-enactment of a battle in Piedmont - Marcello Capra (Shutterstock.com)

On the return of his nephew, the emperor wanted to know the identity of that knight but Aleramo did not want to know to show himself to his sire, dirty and in poor clothes as he was, not to mention the previous flight with his daughter. It was after a thousand insistences of the bishop of Albenga that the knight showed himself to Otto I, who instead of showing himself angry, embraced him with great tenderness and wanted to know everything that happened since he had left the court. At the end of the story he immediately wanted to reunite his new family, also because he discovered that he was the grandfather of four other grandchildren, naming them all, including Aleramo, knights. He then gave them a militia banner with a red and white balzana (remember the two horses?) Which was to be a symbol of the faith and valor of all the heirs of the Aleramo family. There were several days of celebration.

Stemma degli Alermani 
Coat of arms of the Alermani

Defeated the Brescians, Otto I decided to give Aleramo and his sons the title of Marquis and granted them the possession of all the lands, of which the brave could draw a border on horseback in 3 days and 3 nights, between Liguria and Piedmont. Aleramo took with him 3 of the fastest horses and left without allowing himself to stop but it was during the second day that one of the horses died from the effort. Still along the race, in an uninhabited area, the horse on which he was riding lost an iron and without a blacksmith it was a big problem. But using a brick as a hammer, Aleramo put the iron back in order and set off again making an incredible run. Covering a perimeter of over 400 kilometers, the marquis traveled through the districts around where Alessandria, Savona and Saluzzo then arose.

In vernacular Piedmontese, brick was called "mun" and iron "frrha", therefore, "munfrrha". Thus was born the territory of Monferrato, which the Aleramo family wisely dominated, making those arid hills rich and important.

Il Monferrato - Claudio Giovanni Colombo (Shutterstock.com)
The Monferrato - Claudio Giovanni Colombo (Shutterstock.com

It is said that our hero died in Grazzano Badoglio, where in the right aisle of the Abbey a fresco by Moncalvo represents him, but there are those who claim that Aleramo died visiting the beauties of that territory, the result of his heroic deeds.

Main image: photo by FocusLuca (Shutterstock.com) with fresco by Alermano

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