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 regarding the castle and its park are the 'Chronicon sive Annales' of Romuald Guarna and a poem of the muslim poet Abd ar-Rahman al-Itrabanishi (12th century).
In 1071, during the military campaign to conquer Palermo, the area of the castle was occupied by the Norman Count Roger I. After a few decades, it was used as one of the Solatii Regii erected along the royal parks of the city and, thus, became one of the royal residence of the first King of Sicily, Roger II. The structure was a part of a fortified complex located at the foot of Monte Grifone, probably closed within a surrounding wall including the palace, a ḥammām and an artificial lake.
In 1328 the King Frederick III gave the castle and the park to the Teutonic Order, whose headquarters was at the Basilica della Magione. During this period the structure was used as a hospital. In the 15th century the castle passed to the noble family Beccadelli di Bologna. In 17th century another change of ownership occurred and the castle was ceded to the Duke Francesco Agraz. Under the ownership of the Agraz family the building was left in a state of massive neglect and, thus, became known with the epithet of Castellaccio.
In 1992 the Sicilian Region has acquired the complex thanks to an expropriation. The restoration started in 2007, but even in 2016 some spaces near the castle are unlawfully occupied. The still precarious conditions of the structure have temporarily prevented the inclusion of the castle within the Unesco World Heritage Site called Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale.
By the will of Roger II, the building was surrounded by an artificial lake, at the centre of the Favara Park. The lake had at its heart an artificial island (2 hectares) and was obtained thanks to a dam interrupting the path of the source of Monte Grifone. In 16th century this source ran dry.
The building has a quadrangular drawing and is equipped with a large courtyard. Inside the castle is also present a 'palatin chapel', dedicated to the saints Philip and James.References:
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.