Medieval castles in Apulia

Castello Aragonese

Castello Aragonese is a fortification in Taranto. Officially called the Castel San Angelo, it was built on the site of older fortifications dating to Greek occupation in the third and fourth centuries BC. In 1481 the low ground in front of the fortification site was excavated to allow the passage of boats, and to create a moated defensive position. The present fortress was built for the then-king of Naples, Ferdinand II o ...
Founded: 1496 | Location: Taranto, Italy

Otranto Castle

important bridgehead toward the east, the city of Otranto was provided since the antiquity of defense systems and fortified works. The siege suffered by the city in 1067 seriously damaged the fortress that was repaired and reinforced a few years later at the behest of Roberto il Guiscardo. The reconstruction promoted in 1228 by Frederick II of Swabia instead remain evident traces of the tower of the median body cylindrica ...
Founded: 1228 | Location: Otranto, Italy

Bari Swabian Castle

The Castello Svevo or Swabian Castle (Castello normanno-svevo), also known as the Houhenstaufen Castle, is a castle in the Apulian city of Bari. Probably built in 1132 by Norman King Roger II, it was destroyed in 1156 by king William I of Sicily and rebuilt and reinforced in 1233 by the Holy Roman emperor Fredrick II. During the Angevin domination, it went through several transformation, and after being acquired ...
Founded: 1132 | Location: Bari, Italy

Monopoli Castle

The Castle of Monopoli, surrounded by the sea and located on a peninsula, was built first as a stronghold and later changed into noble house. It was originally built as part of coastal strongholds by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and later fortified by the Angevins. In 1552 it was once again reinforced by the viceroy Don Pedro de Toledo, at the behest of Charles V. Other important changes were made in 1660, by the Duke ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Monopoli, Italy

Gallipoli Castle

The Angevine-Aragonese castle of Gallipoli dates back to the 13th-14th centuries, but the town used to have a stronghold already during Roman time, together with towers enlarged by the Byzantines and by the Normans. The Angevins and the Aragonese modified the structure of the fortress, but Francesco di Giorgio Martini was the one who made important changes. During the 19th century the moat was filled up and the arches whi ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gallipoli, Italy

Castel del Monte

Castel del Monte, located in the municipality of Andria, rises on a rocky hill dominating the surrounding countryside of the Murgia region. A unique piece of medieval architecture, it was completed in 1240. The castle’s location, its perfect octagonal shape, as well as the mathematical and astronomical precision of its layout all reflect the broad education and cultural vision of its founder, Emperor Frederick II. As a ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Andria, Italy

Monte Sant'Angelo Castle

Probably built in 837 by Orso I, the  Monte Sant"Angelo Castle has bastions of different ages. The most ancient part, called Torre dei Giganti ('Giants" Tower') is a pentagonal tower 18 m-high, with walls 3.7 m thick. The first documents on its history dates back to 979; later, it was the residence of Rainulf I of Aversa and the Robert Guiscard, who built the Norman Tower and the Treasure Hall. Empe ...
Founded: 837 AD | Location: Monte Sant'Angelo, Italy

Conversano Castle

The Castle of Conversano is located on the highest point of the hill on which the city stands in a position able to dominate the whole surrounding territory to the sea, and borders the old Largo della Corte, a large irregularly shaped square always at the heart of the city life. The castle was the residence of the Counts of Conversano for almost seven centuries, ever since Norman times. Yet his story is much older, ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Conversano, Italy

Vieste Castle

For its strategic position, Vieste was always one of the greatest landmarks of defense of the Gargano and preserved until 1846 the title of Piazza d'Armi. All the rulers of the Kingdom of southern Italy, Normans to the Bourbons have always held in the highest regard this advanced place of the Adriatic Sea. The castle, that dominates with its imposing the medieval district is traced back to the second half of the 11th cen ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Vieste, Italy

Ceglie Messapica Castle

The Castello Ducale in Ceglie Messapica dates from Norman times and has been rebuilt and expanded several times over the centuries. Together with the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, it dominates the historic city center. Between the 12th and 13th centuries, under Hohenstaufen and Angioin rule, the first extensions of the castle were carried out with the construction of further fortifications, including the three round ...
Founded: 1070-1100 | Location: Ceglie Messapica, Italy

Mesagne Castle

Mesagne Castle probably dates back to the 11th century, but the royal fortress we see today was designed and built by renowned military leader Giovanni Antonio Orsini del Balzo in 1430. Since then, alterations have been made but there are traces of its use as a fortress. The castle consists of two main parts: the oldest one is the quadrangular tower which has three floors, the other includes the rooms on the ground an ...
Founded: 1430 | Location: Mesagne, Italy

Episcopio Castle

The construction of the Episcopio Castle belongs to the Archbishopric of Taranto, and still today represents the temporal power that the Italian bishops have exercised over the city. There is no information of the dates of construction but we know with certainty that the original nucleus already existed in the 15th century. The castle was never used for defensive purposes, but was built as an aristocratic dwelling unde ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Grottaglie, Italy

Barletta Castle

Barletta Castle was initially erected in the 10th century by the Normans as a typical motte and bailey structure. During the Crusade period, it was a used as a hostel for soldiers leaving for the Holy Land. It was upgraded and enlarged substantially under the reign of Frederick II between 1225 and 1228. This corresponds to the period in which he launched a crusade from here, the Sixth Crusade. The castle was later expand ...
Founded: 1225-1228 | Location: Barletta, Italy

Trani Castle

Trani has lost its old city walls and bastions, but the 13th-century fort has been extensively restored as a museum and performance venue and is open to the public.  The castle was commissioned by Frederick II of Swabia in 1230. It was completed three years later, although consolidation of the structure continued for a further fifteen years. Like many other castles, it was modified in the 16th century when Charles V rei ...
Founded: 1230 | Location: Trani, Italy

Lucera Castle

The construction of the Lucera castle was commissioned by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor following his decision to lead the Saracens rebels of Sicily in the town of Lucera, thus attempting to pacify the situation. The castle was built in 1233 on the foundations of a Romanesque cathedral and the walls were added later (between 1269 and 1283) by Charles I of Anjou. This addition was necessary for the difference in use th ...
Founded: 1233 | Location: Lucera, Italy

Manfredonia Castle

The Castello di Manfredonia was built and expanded during the times of the Hohenstaufen , the Anjou and the Aragón family. The first documents mentioning the fortress are dated back to 1279, which refers to the recruitment of workers to begin construction. Nevertheless, it is possible that King Charles I of Naples had the fortress built using facilities that already existed and were integrated into the new building. The ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Manfredonia, Italy

Castro Castle

The first documents testifying to the existence of a castle in Castro date back to the 13th century: a document of 1282 described it as having a strategic importance to protect the kingdom. It is quite sure that the castle was built on the ruins of a former Byzantine building, which protected the fortified Roman village. In 1480 it was destroyed and then rebuilt and strengthened  in 1572 by the Spanish viceroy. ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Castro, Italy

Oria Castle

The Swabian Castle in Oria is a wonderful construction built between 1225 and 1233 at the behest of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Over the centuries, it has been inhabited by princes, knights and noblemen. It has a triangular plan and is characterised by three towers called Quadrata (Square), Del cavaliere (of the knight) and Del Salto (Jump): the first one was built during the time of Frederick II, while the other two ...
Founded: 1225-1233 | Location: Oria, Italy

Dentice Frasso Castle

The medieval castle of Dentice Frasso, opposite the Town Hall with its ancient square tower, overlooks the San Vito dei Normanni main piazza. The original access was via a drawbridge which was from the box located on the door of the Chapel The first building was undoubtedly the tower, believed to be Norman and dating from the 12th century. Built by Bohemond of Hauteville in the 11th century, in a strategic position on the ...
Founded: 11 | Location: San Vito dei Normanni, Italy

Bovino Castle

The castle of Bovino was built by the Norman Count Drogone and later expanded by Frederick II, and in the 1600s it was transformed into a noble residence by the dukes of Guevara. Currently inhabited by the descendants of the Guevara family, in the past it was one of the most beautiful patrician residences in the South of Italy. The Norman tower exists and is supported by a massive barbacane, in pyramidal shape. The const ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Bovino, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

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Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.