Butera castle was taken from the Byzantines by the Emir Alaba in 853-4 after a 5 or 6 month siege.  It then remained in Arab hands until the beginning of April 1088 when it was attacked by Count Roger Hauteville (d.1101), although he had gained a victory there as early as 1063.  After a long siege in which the castle was surrounded the garrison surrendered and Roger deported the local Muslim aristocracy to Calabria, although the peasants were suffered to remain.  Later the castle was mentioned in two of Roger's diplomas of 1091-1093 and one of Pope Urban II (1088-99).

Before 1094, Roger's daughter Flandrina was married to the Lombard, Henry Vasto (d.1137).  By 1115 the couple had certainly acquired Paterno and by 1130 Butera.  Possibly this was Flandrina's marriage portion, or more likely as the gift of Count Roger's widow, Flandrina's mother in law.  She was Adelaida (d.1118), the sister of Henry Vasto (d.1137).  Henry and Flandrina were succeeded by their son Simon (d.1156), who was arrested for his plotting against Admiral Maio (d.1160) in 1154 and held without trial.  Simon's illegitimate son, Roger Sclavus, was one of those responsible for the capture of King William I in 1160 before fleeing, as well as raising Butera in revolt the next spring.  Presumably he led the revolt because Manfred Vasto who was living in 1158, the legitimate son of Count Simon (d.1156), was dead.

On 2 April 1134 it was recorded that Richard Bublii and his nephew Henry had given the church of St Mary of Butera to the bishop of Lipari and Patti.  About 1154, Idrisi described Butera as a ‘very reasonable fortress', who's city had a population of Normans, Byzantines, Arabs and Lombards, when it was raised to a county, presumably for Simon Vasto.  In January 1156 Bartholomew Garsiliato led a rebellion against Admiral Maio, seizing Butera castle.  Subsequently the rebellion was joined by the castles of Noto, Sclafani and CaltanissettaKing William returned from the mainland to deal with the problem.  He freed Simon Vasto, now called Count Simon of Policastro and marched with him on Butera with an army where he and the count persuaded the garrison to surrender on terms of exile at the king's pleasure, but keeping their lives and property.

On 10 November 1160 Matthew Bonellus of Caccamo slew Admiral Maio and raised 2 unsuccessful revolts against King William.  After his second revolt which resulted in the capture of the king on 9 March
1161 and death of his eldest son in his own palace, on the thirteenth, Roger Scalvo and Count Tancred of Lecce (d.1194) occupied Butera and Piazza Armerina respectively that April.  They then proceeded to slaughter the peaceful Muslims living near both fortresses.  Bonellus, who had been pardoned after the March revolt, was now arrested and imprisoned, although one unreliable chronicler states that he was blinded and hamstrung, before soon dying from his injuries.  Again William went with his army against the rebels.  First he destroyed Piazza Armerina and then he besieged Butera by digging a ditch around it.  The castle and town were stubbornly defended by the count and Roger, who expected further rebellions to break forth to their assistance.  Such revolts shook Southern Italy, but Sicily remained quiet and, as the summer drew to a close, Roger and Tancred made peace on the terms of being allowed to go into exile.  Butera castle was then destroyed, although it was obviously later rebuilt.  In 1168 Count Henry of Montescaglioso demanded the county that Count Simon Vasto had once held in Sicily, ie the castles of Butera and Paterno, which had been in royal hands since.  This was refused and he was subsequently arrested for treason and allegedly blinded.

Before 1250 Galvano Lancia (d.1268) claimed the county of Butera though the inheritance of his mother, who would appear to have been Bianca Maletta (d.1215+).  Peter Ruffo of Messina (d.1256+) refused this order of Prince Manfred before he became king in 1258.

The castle also saw action in the war of the Sicilian Vespers (1282-1302).  Late in 1282 Walter Caltagirone, its lord, rebelled against King Peter (d.1285), but was persuaded to surrender as Peter's men claimed he would be a benevolent lord to Sicily.  On discovering that King Peter intended to continue the war into southern Italy Walter rebelled again and in April 1283 fortified his castle with 60 knights and seized Modica and Sperlinga castles, but this time he was captured by Alaimo Lentini of Nicosia and sentenced to death.  The castle seems to have survived this, the land certainly being held by one Lupo Alberti as terra Butere in the 1320s, and in about 1355 the place was still described as both a land and a castle.

Originally the castle appears to have had 4 rectangular towers at the corners of a large ward.  As such it would bear comparison with Piazza Armerina and possibly the early castle at Caccamo.  Of the Butera towers only one remains standing some 80' high externally.  The tower has several twin mullioned Catalan windows with small central pillars and ornate capitals.  These are probably late thirteenth century or later.  Recent excavations has found 3 cisterns and the tower has been consolidated and the rooms remade with a new iron and glass superstructure added on the site of the upper floor.

Why not join me at other Sicilian castles?  Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry