Lying 1 mile NNW of Roccamena on the east side of Mount Maranfusa at
1,600', the vicinity has a recorded human
presence from the end of the ninth century
BC. Despite this, there is no mention of the castle until the
eleventh century when a diploma of Count Roger Hauteville (d.1101) mentions a
Calataczarut in the newly founded diocese of Mazara. This
placename was confirmed by Pope Paschal II in 1100. This
might suggest the castle was founded by this date.
In 1154 it was noted by Idrisi that ‘Calatrasi is a striking
castle [set in] a primitive and strong place' and that ‘it
has land to sow'. In 1162 King William I (d.1166) gave the
castle to Giovanni Malcovenant for the service of eleven knights,
although it later reverted to the king when Giovanni failed in his
obligations. King William II, in 1174-75, passed the land
onto Monreale cathedral. This was confirmed by the bishop of
Mazara renounced any right to the municipium Calatrasi.
1183, Pope Lucius III confirmed this transaction with a papal bull. Around this time King William II had a list of all the
names of the villains belonging to the lands assigned to
Monreale. It was recorded that there were 373 people in
Calatrasi which suggests that there was quite a community surrounding
In 1203 the castle was seized from the Archbishop-Abbot Caro of
Monreale by rebel monks until Pope Innocent III intervened, restoring
the castle to its rightful owner. The castle was recorded as
one of the fortresses of Sicily under the Aragonese, but by 1348 it had
been granted to Geoffrey Alemanna by the archbishop of Monreale for a
fixed rent. Then, before 1351, the fortress supposedly became
a den of thieves, probably as part of the Angevin/Aragonese
dispute. Sometime between 1374 and 1377, Count Manfred III
Chiaramonte of Modica (d.1391), who was also lord of Caccamo, seized Calatrasi. After his
son's execution in 1392 the castle was returned to Monreale by King
Martin I (d.1409). Four years later in 1396, Francesco Morana
from Monte San Giuliano was appointed castellan of Calataras.
Soon afterwards in 1398, the king ordered that the income of Monreale
should be used to provision of the castles of Monreale, Patellaro and
Calatrasi. The castle was kept up into the fifteenth century
as in 1432 it hosted Alfonso the Magnanimous when he was on his great
hunt. The castle still possessed a castellan in 1458, when
Gracianu Marju was proceeded against due to his banditry, but by 1558
was in ruins.
The castle stands upon a craggy eminence and is only easily accessible
from the north. The irregular enceinte has further defences
lower down on the north side - a wall and tower forming part of a large
defensive system. A further fort is at the foot of the
promontory to the north. At the summit of the site the NW
tower controlled access to the mountain top. This keep is
almost square, being 30'x33' with rounded internal corners.
To the south is a tower 33'x40' and to the NE another
20'x26'. Both these appear irregular in shape.
Buildings lined the courtyard leaving a cobblestone courtyard in the
centre. Inside the south and NE towers were
cisterns. The outer walls were built directly onto the rock,
although instability caused them to be buttressed.
Why not join me at other Sicilian
castles? Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly
Paul Martin Remfry