Casera a Orza di Sovramonte

Orza – Characteristic house
(photo by: Nino Martino)

Terraced Casere

Location: loc. Orza – Municipality of Sovramonte (Bl)

Access: from Aune country hamlet (891m), along Val Masiera, follow on foot an easy road across the wood (only authorized vehicles allowed); after entering the Park, you will reach a junction: here turn right and you will shortly reach Orza clearing (1,100m).

Environmental context – Description of the site: the building is situated in a clearing with a slight slope, within the “woody area” characterizing the slopes at the south-western border of the Park; the area of Orza, probably named after the cultivations characterizing it in the past, is scattered with several temporary settlements, above all stables-barns linked to the summer mountain grazing practice. Until the mid-20th century, the clearing was larger and there were several cultivated land plots; in the latest decades, the abandonment of the agricultural and breeding practices had as a consequence the implacable development of the wood.
Situated at about 3 km from Aune, at 1,100m asl, it lies within the administrative borders of the Municipality of Sovramonte and within the Park perimeter.

Building period: unknown (the year on it, 1826, probably refers to renovation measures)

Architectural features: isolated stable-barn with terraced frontispiece (scalinèle), rare and ancient building structure. Of the greatest historical – environmental value.

The structure (Description of the buildings)
One-body building, with rectangular plan, consisting of two premises: stable on the ground floor and hay loft on the first floor with independent access from the outside and not communicating. The northern side of the building is partly buried in the slope to enable the direct transport of the loads of hay. The roof, dominating for its size and its structural and functional importance on the rest of the building, the symmetry of the holes in the façade, and the terraced northern and southern walls, give a monumental aspect to the building. In a subsequent period, a small casera was annexed upstream.

  • Vertical structures: brickwork made of local stones put together with lime mortar, squared cornerstones, and coping with stone slabs. The main openings are on the two fronts (in the south the entrance of the stable, in the north the entrance of the hay loft) and the small windows on the ground floor, with stone cornices and arches, the semi-circular opening and the smaller holes (rectangular) on the downstream façade for the ventilation of the hay loft, are symmetrically and harmoniously arranged within the building.
  • Horizontal structures: in stone (pebbles) the floor of the stable on the ground floor, in wood on the upper floor.
  • Roofs: sloping roof characterized with steeply sloping symmetrical pitches (over 100%), a wooden covering structure with “pliers-like” trusses, plate mantle (originally in wheat or oat straw).
  • Significant details: the northern and southern fronts are terraced (with “scalinèle”), covered with stone slabs; the slabs are also used for the coping, along the lateral walls, of the eaves line, where stone elements have been included to favor the water draining. The particular terraced structure was deeply linked to the original covering: as a matter of fact, the straw covering required a good protection from rain and wind (that could lift it) and a periodical maintenance; the terraces therefore favored the access to the roof during the maintenance (working as supports for elementary scaffolds) and protected it from the lateral infiltrations of wind and water.

Original use – Current conditions / uses
Stable – barn used during the summer grazing period, abandoned for over 50 years, it has been recently recovered (1999), and is used for occasional recreational activities.

This building structure is today very rare and, in the fifteen Park Municipalities, we can find it only in Sovramonte. In the Park there are two examples of it, both in loc. Orza (the other terraced casera is upstream the one described here). Casèra De’ Bortoli represents a precious evidence above all for the formal pureness of the building that has not suffered significant changes. Some studies have revealed the Germanic origin of the building and established that this kind of architecture developed in the mid 14th century. The territory of Belluno and Feltre, at that time part of the German Empire, had a great strategic importance. The strong 1348 earthquake and the subsequent plague decimated the population. As a consequence, the reconstruction was entrusted to foreigners who promoted the diffusion of the architectural model they knew best. Terraced buildings are widespread in other areas of the Alps and above all in Northern and Western Europe; in the Province of Belluno they were widespread in the past in the valley bottom. Today we can find them above all in Alpago and, with a less sloping roof, in the area of sinistra Piave (Colle del Nevegàl).

M. Vedana, Malghe e casère a gradoni. Tracce di matrici culturali germaniche nell’architettura tradizionale, in Insediamenti temporanei nella montagna bellunese, edited by D. Perco, Comunità Montana Feltrina – C.D.C.P. – Quaderno n.14, Libreria Pilotto Editrice, Feltre 1997, pages 157-172.
M. Bortot – G. Rossi, Degree Thesis Sulle tracce della cultura germanica nell’architettura minore della Valbelluna, I.U.A.V. Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, a.a.1995/96.

Municipality: Sovramonte (BL)