Medieval castles in Sicily

Eufemio Castle

Eufemio Castle is mentioned in several historical sources, the oldest dating back to the first decades of the 12th century. It was described as an important place for the old town, thanks to its strategic position. In the 13th century, the importance of the Eufemio Castle grew considerably, as it was one of the main ones imperial castles of the reign of Frederick II of Swabia, whose guards guarded him during the battle ag ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Calatafimi-Segesta, Italy

Siculiana Castle

The Chiaramonte Castle of Siculiana, situated in thehomonymous town, is a rich and splendid architectural monument. It was built on the top of a headland, probably seat of the ancient cena. The castle dominated, with its towers, the village and the valley that lies gently on the Mediterranean sea. The origin of the fortress is Arab. The ancient arab castle was rebuilt in 1314, by order of Federico Chiaramonte. In 1311 Co ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Siculiana, Italy

Branciforti Castle

The monumental complex of the Branciforti Castle is located at the highest point of the village of Raccuja to dominate the whole valley. It dates back to the Norman era, even if its origins are to be found between the Roman and the Arab ages. Over the centuries the Castle was subjected to numerous changes, the most important of which dates back to 1200s when the entire building passed under the ownership of Baron Orioles. ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Raccuja, Italy

Favara Castle

Built in the 13th century by the Chiaramonte family, the Favara castle is of particular interest because it represents the transitional phase between castle and palace. The Palace, as it is in fact commonly called because of the square arrangement of its various parts, recalls the typical lay-out of the Swabian castles that sprang up in eastern Sicily and may be compared with the palacia or solacia built by King Frederick ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Favara, Italy

Caltavuturo Castle

Caltavuturo Castle clings to the top of the hill called Terravecchia, overlooking the modern small town to the north. It was originally the city"s medieval core, completely abandoned for a different site (that of the modern town) only in modern times. The origins date from the Arab period.  Some massive parts of the walls remain, being a curtain wall of quadrangular plan and another semi-cylindrical tower  to prot ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Caltavuturo, Italy

Castello dell'Emiro

Castello dell"Emiro ('Castle of the Emir') was founded by emir Jafar II (998–1019). Today it lies in ruins.
Founded: c. 1000 AD | Location: Misilmeri, Italy

Venetico Castle

Venetico castle was built by Spadafora family in the late 15th century. It was used as a residence until 1908, when the massive earthquake destroed the castle.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Venetico Superiore, Italy

Mazzarino Castle

Mazzarino Castle origins are unknown, but it was mentioned the late 13th century as a residence of Lods and Counts of Mazzarino. Today curtain walls and remains of two towers exist.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Mazzarino, Italy

Santapau Castle

Santapau Castle was first time documented in 1274, but it was fortified already in the Byzantine era. After the old castle was destroyed by Arabs, it was rebuilt during the age of Charles I of Anjou. It was destroyed by the massive earthquake in 1693, today some remains of towers and undeground structures remain.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Licodia Eubea, Italy

Castroreale Castle

The round tower is the last remain of a Castroreale Castle, built by Frederick II of Aragon in 1324. The name Castroreale comes from Latin, and means 'royal fortress'.
Founded: 1324 | Location: Castroreale, Italy

Pietrarossa Castle

The Castle of Pietrarossa ('Red Stone Castle'), built using, as its name suggests, largely red stones, dominates the city and the whole Salso River valley from the edge of the ravine upon which it stands. The originsa castle remain unknown. It is presumed to have been built in the 9th century, but there are some historians who claim that it was built by the Sicani, a people that was present in Sicily in the 8th ...
Founded: 8th-9th century AD | Location: Caltanissetta, Italy

Colombaia Castle

According to several historical documents, the fortifications in Colombaia island were built first time around the 260 BC, During the first Punic war. The Roman army tried several times to conquer this island, succeeding only in 247 BC, although they left it shortly after and left the territory totally in disuse, with the Castle of the Dovecote which quickly became a nest of doves that would have given way to the pagan wo ...
Founded: 1280 | Location: Trapani, Italy

Punta Troia Castle

Around 1140 Roger II, King of Sicily, transformed the old Saracen tower of Punta Troia in a real castle in defense of western end of the richest and most powerful kingdom in the Mediterranean at that time. In subsequent periods Swabian domination, Angevin and Aragonese Marettimo followed the fate of Sicily, accentuating an isolation that had its peak during the long Spanish rule, when the western part of the island becam ...
Founded: c. 1140 | Location: Favignana, Italy

Luna Castle

The majestic medieval castle of Sciacca was built in 1382 at the wishes of Guglielmo Peralta, count of Caltabellotta, who became one of the four vicars of the kingdom of Sicily after the death of king Fredrik the III. The castle was passed down to the counts of Luna when, after the death of Nicolò Peralta (son of Guglielmo) one of his three daughters, Margherita, married count Artale of Luna, a Catalan and uncle of king ...
Founded: 1382 | Location: Sciacca, Italy

Mussomeli Castle

Mussomeli Castle is a magic and evocative palace where it is possible to enjoy a breathtaking view of the coastline. Built in 1370 by Manfredi Chiaramonte III, this Norman-Gothic castle stands in a strategic position overlooking the whole valley as it is on top of a high limestone crag almost 800 meters above sea level.  The Mussomeli Castle has not undergone radical changes throughout its history therefore you can get ...
Founded: 1370 | Location: Mussomeli, Italy

Gela Castle

The Castelluccio ('Small Castle') of Gela was built around 1143 by the Count of Butera. It is located 10 km from the city.
Founded: c. 1143 | Location: Gela, Italy

Poggiodiana Castle

The remains of Poggiodiana Castle, or Misilcassino Castle, of Ribera are constituted by part of the perimeter walls and two towers, a quadrangular portion and a cylindrical, 25 meters in height and about 30 meters in circumference, of particular interest for the characteristic crowning corbels. Developed in about 3000 m² with an irregular plan, from the north side svettava on a precipice of over 300 meters, at the foot ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ribera, Italy

Rufo Ruffo Castle

The Rufo Ruffo Castle of Zanclea can easily be seen from the surrounding area. This fortress was built on top of a precipitous hill surrounded by green valleys from where you can overlook out on the sea. There was no architectural design planned therefore the castle was built with limestone rocks arranged in no rigorous way and solely based on the geographical locatio making it a challenge. The castle was built in the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Scaletta Superiore, Italy

Calatubo Castle

The origins of the Calatubo Castle date back to some years before 1093, the year in which Roger I of Sicily defined the boundaries of the diocese of Mazara that included 'Calatubo with all its dependencies'. In ancient times, around the castle there was the village of Calatubo, which based its business on the extraction of stones for water and wind mills from the quarries around the creek Finocchio, as mentione ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Alcamo, Italy

Pietratagliata Castle

The castle of Gresti or Pietratagliata is located near the village of Aidone. Its current condition is that of ruin even if well legible in the forms that are composed mainly of a mighty tower full and a series of rooms ingrottate. The first historical news documented dating back to the 14th century. The castle stands on a high rocky ridge of sandstone. The central part, the spur higher, has been used by man for its strat ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Aidone, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.