They are two peaks also called Fratello Maggiore the highest (m. 635) and Fratello Minore the other (m. 622). In ancient times they were called “Cappelletta” or “Sellato” or “Pelio” the higher; “Spino” or “Penin” the lower (1).
They are located north of the Sperone and along the road leading to the Diamante; they can be reached in an hour’s walk beyond the walls of Righi, or by climbing from Begato or Preli. The peaks were held by the Genoese at the time of the siege of 1747. The field fortification works consisting of palisades, ditches and redoubts, extended from the Sperone along the entire ridge up to the summit of Fratello Maggiore.
The first hasty works to make the summit of the Two Brothers in a condition to resist began on April 12, 1747 and lasted two weeks. The primitive fortification consisted of a single entrenched enclosure that embraced the two peaks and on each of the peaks there was a redoubt.
It is difficult to attribute an author to this work. It could be Sicre as we see him involved in all the defense operations, but it could also be any French military engineer who arrived in Genoa with the first reinforcements.
In October of 1747, when the Austrians had momentarily withdrawn and work was underway to build forts in masonry, there is no mention of the Due Fratelli; the new redoubt on the Diamante, not far away, was sufficient to defend the town.
It is the siege of 1800 that will bring back the Two Brothers. The French settled there with new redoubts that, however, did not provide artillery to avoid that the enemy, if it had taken possession of the position, could turn them against the city walls.
The 30 April 1800 the Austrians after a violent clash chase away the occupants and drag on two small cannons. A subsequent counterattack brings the French masters of the position.
It is said that Foscolo was wounded fighting valiantly in this enterprise, but there is no mention of this; the reports of the time inform us that he was hit a few days later during a retreat on the shore of the Polcevera.
(1) Pelio derives from the Latin “proelium”, battle, in memory of some immemorial clash. To the east is the town of Preli, same etymology.
FRATELLO MINORE Fort
It stands about 200 metres west of Fratello Maggiore as the crow flies, on the area already occupied by the fragile earthen and gabion walls of 1747 and 1800. During the Napoleonic period, a simple tower was erected, while the fort as we see it today was built by the Sardinian engineers between 1815 and 1823. In fact, we can also see the gap between the structure of the tower and the big wall that rested on it later.
The construction is also very similar to the Puin fort, so we can think of the same designer. In the early 20th century, a small powder magazine was added to the ramparts.
The fortress consists of a high wall enclosing a trapezoidal area and the tower located on the perimeter and overlooking Begato.
The tower is made of stone laid in irregular ashlars, still partly plastered, with the corners in freestone; also in freestone are the architraves of the main door, windows and the sides of the loopholes. Brick is used in the vaults, in the small arches resting on brackets on the top floor and in the parapet of the terrace.
The entrance to the fortified area opens onto a partly filled in moat, which does not detract from the difficulty of entering the enclosure. To get from here to the level of the terraces, the cobbled road runs through a trench, kept under control by the slits of the tower and the embankment above. The access to the tower is on the south side; one enters a large room overlooked by numerous embrasures, all of which, however, are too high from the ground to be used directly; probably a wooden platform ran all around it. On the side facing the Big Brother there is a ladder. One descends to the basement illuminated by embrasures and next to it, on the Begato side, there is a cistern with a capacity of 23 cubic metres of water.
We go up to the first floor, in which there are two windows of the cannon-fire type with brick parapets and arches, and we notice that it was formed by a wooden ceiling, which has of course disappeared, but whose holes in the wall can still be seen to fit the beams together. The roof is a barrel vault of considerable thickness, bomb-proof, and the terrace is flat. From the parapet of the terrace, the drains protrude on the four sides, supported by stone brackets reinforced by iron bars. From the existing drawings in the offices of the Genio Militare of Genoa, the following defences are evident: a cannon on the northern embankment to beat the upper Polcevera valley, three cannons aimed at the lower Polcevera valley on the embankment to the south of the tower, of which the stone bases in a semicircle can still be seen; four cannons aimed at the Fratello Maggiore. Furthermore, in the saddle between the two brothers, a shelf is ready to house a possible new battery. The line of fire of the parapets is 20 metres, while there are 20 positions protected behind embrasures. The ordinary garrison in peacetime consisted of 15 men, not even necessary to cover all the embrasures. In case of need, another twenty men could be attached to straw mattresses on the ground. There were 1200 kilograms of explosives in the powder magazine.
The current state of the fort is completely abandoned, the parapets are partly shattered, the iron rods of the vault have also been cut, the internal staircase has been demolished in one section to better remove the keys embedded in the masonry, so it is also difficult to climb up to the terrace.
(Planimetria tratta da “I forti di Genova” Sagep Editice)
FRATELLO MAGGIORE Fort
Built by the French military engineers between 1805 and 1814, its exterior was retouched by the Sardinian military engineers between 1815 and 1823. Partially demolished in 1936 for military reasons, it was completely knocked down during the last war to set up four anti-aircraft emplacements on the flat top of the mountain. All that remains of the fort today is a small basement room. A possible reconstruction of the building would not be difficult as detailed drawings exist. These show both the shape of the French tower and the subsequent alterations carried out by the Sardinian Engineer Corps. The original construction was very similar to the one that still exists on Fratello Minore and is almost twin to Puin; simple and quadrangular but squarer, 16.75×14.85 metres wide and about 10 metres high on two levels. It was equipped with projecting machicolations at the centre of each of the fronts, a moat at the entrance, the façades marked by numerous embrasures on the ground floor and five thrones interspersed with embrasures on the upper floor, and a flat bomb-proof terrace. The thickness of the walls was 130 centimetres, unchanged both at the base and at the cornice, as in the Fratello Minore, so the walls were plumb. The intervention of the Sardinian Engineers completely transformed the appearance of the building. The walls were reinforced until they reached a thickness of 2.20 metres at the base and were inclined with a very strong scarp, so that it looked like a truncated pyramid. At mid-height, pilasters were grafted onto the main front framing three gun windows surmounted by arches. The same motif of arches, pilaster strips and buttresses is repeated as in the Diamante, so that it can be assumed that this fort and the remodelling of the Diamante were the work of the same designer. The position of the staircase was moved and some partitions were demolished. The ground floor was divided into three rooms illuminated only by numerous slits; from here one could access through a trap door to a basement room in which two slits opened on the moat to fire at those who climbed into it, next to which there was a water cistern. The first floor was intended for the soldiers’ quarters and received light from nine windows. The terrace was marked with nine machicolations to direct fire to the bases of the fort.
The armament consisted of four cannons. The line of fire from the parapets was 30 metres, plus 22 positions from behind the embrasures. The garrison consisted of 20 men, to which another 30 could be added if necessary, sleeping on the ground on straw. The powder magazine contained 1,000 kg of ammunition.
(Taken from “Fortificazioni campali e permanenti di Genova” by R. Finocchio, Valentini Editore)