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:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.