Medieval castles in Sicily

Milazzo Castle

The Castello di Milazzo is located on the summit of a hill overlooking the town, on a site first fortified in the Neolithic era. The castle was built as a result of the strategic importance of the Milazzo peninsula, which commands the Gulf of Patti, the body of water that separates Sicily from the Aeolian Islands. It also commands one of Sicily"s most important natural harbours. The Greeks modified it into an acropo ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Milazzo, Italy

Forza d'Agrò Castle

Forza d"Agrò Castle was built in 11th century to the 420m high hill. Since 1876 it has been surrounded by a graveyard.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Forza d'Agrò, Italy

Adrano Norman Castle

Castle of Norman origin (Castello Normanno) is located in the centre of Adrano, built in 1070 on behalf of Norman king Roger I. They probably built the keep on the ruins of a pre-existing Muslim fortress at this site. Its purpose was to ensure control over a large portion of the surrounding Etna area. Inside the castle is the archaeological museum with antique findings of the region.
Founded: 1070 | Location: Adrano, Italy

Cefalù Castle

Cefalù Castle lies on the mountain above the town of the same name. The top of Cefalù Rock was already inhabited in ancient times as the remains of a temple with megalithic stonework attests. Under Byzantine rule the settlement on the mountain developed into a real town, with the consequent partial depopulation of the town center below. In the years 837-838 Cefalù withstood a first attack of the Muslims. After a new si ...
Founded: c. 1063 | Location: Cefalù, Italy

Montalbano Elicona Castle

The Montalbano Elicona Castle is considered as one of the most beautiful monuments in Sicily. It was built in the 12th century by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II on pre-existing byzantine and Arab walls. The intent of Frederick II was to provide Sicily a series of strong defensive buildings around the island. The well preserved extensive walls of the castle are easily seen throughout the town. From on top of the Vall ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Montalbano Elicona, Italy

Brucoli Castle

The Aragonese Castello di Brucoli was built in the 15th century as a watch tower to guard the coast and monitor and protect against Turkish-Barbarian raids. It underwent several additions and alterations in the following centuries, e.g walls with circular towers at the corners were added in the 16th century. The Castle of Brucoli dominates much of the Gulf of Catania and was therefore used as a watch and guard post in th ...
Founded: 1468 | Location: Brucoli, Italy

Schisò Castle

Schisò Castle, which overlooks the bay of Giardini Naxos, was originally constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was rebuilt in the 16th century, with a military observation tower added which served to patrol Cape Schisò and the bay against raids by Barbary pirates who were led by the Turkish corsair Barbarossa Kheir-ed-Din to plunder the many small coastal fishing villages on the coast south of Port Schisò. Wit ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Giardini Naxos, Italy

San Nicola l'Arena Castle

San Nicola l"Arena Castle was built in the 13th century to protect the town agains pirates. Today it is a well preserved example of medieval castle with three watchtowers.
Founded: 12th century | Location: San Nicola l'Arena, Italy

Castle of the Counts of Modica

Castle of the Counts of Modica in Alcamo was mentioned for the first time in a diploma dated 1391.  The construction of the castle was started by the Peralta family at about 1340 and was finished in 1350, under the feudatories Enrico and Federico Chiaramonte; it was a mansion and a defensive structure until the 16th century. If equipped with munitions and food, it could resist for a month anda a half, quartering 30 compa ...
Founded: 1340-1350 | Location: Alcamo, Italy

Motta Sant'Anastasia Castle

The Tower of Motta Sant"Anastasia was built between 1070 and 1074 by the will of the Count Roger of Hauteville. The massive tower with a rectangular plan, with a base of about 21.5 by 9 by 17 metres, is about 21 metres high and is a typical defensive structure of the early Middle Ages. The roof terrace retains almost intact battlements. The structure consists of three elevations. Only the first of these is still the ...
Founded: 1070-1074 | Location: Motta Sant'Anastasia, Italy

Salemi Castle

The castle of Salemi is one of the best preserved castles in Sicily. Inside, the library and the resurgence museum are housed. The castle has Norman origins and dominates the town with its trapezoidal shape and square, 20 meters high, corner towers, and a cylindrical tower. The castle was built by Norman King Roger around 1077 to the site of Roman-Arab fort. Frederick II altered it in the 13th century. In 1441, on Decem ...
Founded: c. 1077 | Location: Salemi, Italy

Carini Castle

Carini Castle was erected between the late 9th and early 12th century, certainly on a previous Arab construction, by the first Norman feudal lord Rodolfo Bonello, warrior in the retinue of Count Roger. The excavations carried out during the recent restoration, both in the east and in the north, they have surfaced walls of earlier times to the Norman. The castle has a large courtyard, where there is the residential struct ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Carini, Italy

Naro Castle

The Castello di Naro was built on top of a hill in the 14th century by the Chiaramonte family. The complex includes walls with battlements, a square tower built by Frederick II of Aragon and the imposing "mass of the male". On the east side there are two mullioned Gothic windows that illuminate the great "Hall of the Prince", which is located on the first floor of the tower. The portal is flanked by tw ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Naro, Italy

Maredolce Castle

The origins of the Maredolce Castle are unknown. Some scholars tend to attribute the foundation of the castle to the emir Ja"far al-Kalbi (998-1019), believing that it was built over a pre-existing structure. Other scholars believe that the castle dates back to the Norman era, although others consider that just the lake of the Favara Park was realized in the age of the Hauteville dynasty. The first documents regardin ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Palermo, Italy

Lauria Castle

 The Lauria castle in Castiglione di Sicilia was built by Roger of Lauria. It dates back to the 12th century.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Castiglione di Sicilia, Italy

Castello Normanno

The Castello Normanno ('Norman Castle') in Paternò was built in 1072 by Count Roger I of Sicily to protect the Simeto valley from Islamic raids. The first nucleus of the fortress was soon enlarged, and it subsequently lost its original military functions. Under Henry VI it was made the seat of the Count of Paternò, assigned to his fellow Swabian Bartholomew of Luci. Later the castle housed kings and quee ...
Founded: 1072 | Location: Paternò, Italy

Torre delle Mandre

Torre delle Mandre was probably built when Sicily was under the Crown of Aragon in the 15th or 16th centuries. It was mentioned first time in documents in 1557. The tower was purposed to protect area against Maghreb pirates.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Altavilla Milicia, Italy

Montechiaro Castle

The Castle of Palma de Montechiaro was built in 1353. It is the only castle of the Chiaramonte family that is situated at the seaside, on a cliff known as the Bay of the Sirens. It was founded by Frederick III Chiaramonte, then transferred to his successors Manfredi II, I and Andrea, who beheaded him. His possessions were seized and the ownership of the castle was transferred to the family Caro, who erased the memory of t ...
Founded: 1353 | Location: Palma di Montechiaro, Italy

Sant'Alessio Siculo Castle

Sant"Alessio Siculo Castle was built by the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Comnenos in his war against the Normans and the Arabs, who also held it. It was extended during the Norman era in the 12th century. In 1535 it was are residence of King Charles V Habsburg during the Conquest of Tunis. The castle consists of two towers on different peaks.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Sant'Alessio Siculo, Italy

Castello Svevo

Castello Svevo ('Schwabian castle') was erected in 1232 when the older Norman watch tower was extended. It was built to protect Sicily from the coastal raids. The bastions were added in the 16th century. Today the castle is dilapidated and not open to public for security reasons.
Founded: 1232 | Location: Augusta, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.