In the 1540s, the fortifications of Messina were being modernized due to fears of the expanding Ottoman Empire. Forte Gonzaga was built on the hill of Montepiselli, outside the city walls. It was able to defend the mountainous landward approach to the city, and it also overlooked the Strait of Messina. The fort was designed by Antonio Ferramolino, a military engineer from Bergamo. He was assisted by Francesco Maurolico, a native of Messina. It was named after the Viceroy of Sicily Don Ferrante Gonzaga, and was completed in 1545.
The Ottoman threat was reduced after the Catholic victory in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, and the fort's importance began to decline. It saw use during the 1674–78 uprising against Spanish rule. Spain eventually lost Sicily in 1713, but invaded the island five years later during the War of the Quadruple Alliance. During the invasion, the fort did not offer much resistance and was captured by the Spanish general Luca Spinola.
During the Sicilian revolution of 1848, the fort was captured by rebels, who used it to bombard the Real Cittadella which was still in Bourbon hands.
Forte Gonzaga saw use in World War II when it was used by German and Italian forces prior to the Allied invasion, and it was subsequently used by American forward observers to direct artillery fire during the invasion of Italy. It remained a military establishment until 1973, when the Italian Army handed it to the municipality of Messina. There are plans to restore the fort and turn it into a museum and conference centre.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.