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 companies of soldiers.
In 1392 king Martino and his wife were hosted in the castle after the Chiaramontes' defeat, and on September 1, 1535 the emperor Carlo V, during his return from his Tunis victory, lodged in one of its towers with his court and the infanta Eleonora d'Aragona.
In 1534 the castle was attacked by the Islamic pirate Barbarossa. From 1583 and until 1589 it had three restorations.
Since 1828, further to a sentence by Trapani Law Court, Alcamo municipality came into possession of the castle and in the following years it was used as a seat of municipal offices, prison and stable. In 1870 there was another restoration. After the last restorations (made between 2000 and 2010), it has been used as the seat of the Ethnographic Museum and of the Historical Regional Vintage Wines Stock.
The castle has a rhomboidal shape, with a nearly rectangular courtyard. At the corners there are four battlemented towers (two square and two circular shaped), each of them with a particular function, that is:
In the square and highest one they tortured prisoners. The square and lowest one was reserved to sentinels and one of the circular towers was used to give hospitality to distinguished guests.
On the castle sides there are double and triple lancet windows of Gothic-Catalan derivation. Originally it had three doors, placed on the south, west and north sides.References:
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.