Lying 1 mile northnorthwest 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 (1099-1118) 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.  Finally
in 1183, Pope Lucius III (1181-85) 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 the fortress.

In 1203 the castle was seized from the Archbishop-Abbot Caro of Monreale by rebel monks until Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) 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 northwest 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 northeast another 20'x26'.  Both these appear irregular in shape.  Buildings lined the courtyard leaving a cobblestone courtyard in the centre.  Inside the south and northeast 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 Sojourns.


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