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Castle Where Couple Wed Has Rich History

November 19, 2006

BRACCIANO, Italy (AP) _ The romantic 15th-century castle where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes exchanged vows in a lavish ceremony Saturday belongs to a family whose ancestors include a former pope and once hosted princes, though in modern times it has seen its share of celebrity wedding.

The medieval Odescalchi Castle belongs to the noble Odescalchi family, whose ancestors include Benedetto Odescalchi, the 17th century pope Innocent XI.

It once hosted princes but is used nowadays for conventions, gala dinners and receptions for up to 1,400 guests.

The castle has had other brushes with modern celebrities. CNN international correspondent Christiane Amanpour and the former U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin held their 1998 wedding reception there, attended by 180 guests including the late John F. Kennedy, Jr.

The same year, Italian pop star Eros Ramazzotti and his bride, TV personality Michelle Hunzicker, had their reception at the castle, gathering a crowd of TV celebrities and pop stars, including Tina Turner.

But for residents of the town of Bracciano, the castle is a star in its own right _ an essential part of the community and a matter of pride.

``The castle is a symbol, an icon,″ said Mario Marri, a 43-year-old accountant and a native of Bracciano. ``It’s one of the most beautiful castles in Italy, and that was true even before Tom Cruise.″

With a frescoed library and a loggia looking out on a lake, the castle lies in the historic center of Bracciano and its medieval allure remains unscathed by the bustle of activities in the streets around it. Its museum, featuring frescos and ancient furnishings, is open to the public.

The castle is the stuff of legends. Local lore has it that a noblewoman who was one of the castle’s past inhabitants used to have her way with the local men then conveniently push them through one of the bedroom’s trapdoors _ that lead directly into the lake, Marri said.

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