According to the Book of Roger finished in 1154, the town of Carinis
was ‘dominated by a recently built fortress'. Quite what
this means is open to interpretation as the castle appears to have been
built on an older foundation which is claimed to be Arabic. The
evidence for this came from the discovery of older masonry within the
castle to N&E during recent excavations.
The Norman castle is said to have been built by Ralph Bonello, a
follower of Count Roger (d.1101). Presumably he was the
grandfather of the famous Matthew Bonellus of Caccamo
(d.1161+). This would suggest that the castle was reclaimed by
the Crown on the fall of Bonellus in 1160, although it is strange he
made no use of it during his uprisings in that year. After the
fall of Palermo to the rebels in 1168, the
defeated count of Meulan and other Frenchmen were taken to Partinico
and Carini castles for imprisonment. This implies that these
castles were not under royal control at this time, or had been recently
seized. The fortress had a royal garrison of just one squire in 1272.
In 1283, after the Vespers Rebellion, by the order of Queen Constance
of Aragon (d.1302), the castle was granted to the Abate family.
It is thought they converted the fortress into a more residential
structure. At some point Carini passed to the Chiaramonte family
who held it until their overthrow in 1392. In 1397 King Martin
(d.1409) granted the casle to Ubertino La Grua of Palermo. Nearly
a century later the guardian of Giovanni Vincenzo La Grua allowed
Master Masio Jammanco of Noto, a citizen of Palermo, to live at the castle for a full year and make alterations to the structure. Another similar grant was made in 1487.
The castle is famous as the scene of a bloody double murder which
occurred on 4 December 1563, when Baroness Laura Lanza di Trabia, the
wife of Don Vincenzo La Grua-Talamanca, was killed by her father,
together with her alleged lover, Ludovico Vernagallo, in the name of
family honour. The record of their deaths are found in the
historical archive of the Chiesa Madre of Carini. The Case of the
Lady of Carini was not immediately well known as the families involved
immediately silenced any comment. Legend says that on the
anniversary of the crime, the imprint of the bloody hand of the
murdered baroness would appear on the wall in the room where she was
The castle is polygonal in shape with projecting rectangular towers to
NW&SW, that to the NW having fine fourteenth century machicolations
and a Chiaramonte type twin light window similar to those at Sperlinga.
The buttress on the SW angle of the tower, ending just beneath this
window, shows that the tower is a fourteenth century rebuild above this
level. Another smaller rectangular gatetower commands the centre
of the south front, while an ashlar round tower boldly protects the
east end. Another rectangular block projects to the north.
In its west wall are several Romanesque arches, while its rubble ashlar
shows evidence of much rebuilding.
The tall arches of the main entrance gate are thought to be
Arabic. Within the gate, to the left of the door, is a coat of
arms, probably of the Abate family. The arms of La Grua Tocco
Manriquez, which was located above the gate, were removed to the
museum. Some of the doors are surmounted by various
representations of the crane, a device of the La Grua family; others
show three clods of earth, possibly representing the Chiaramonte
family. In one of the upper floor rooms there are two lions
rampant, which are alleged to be those of the Lanza family. On
the ground floor one of the rooms contain an older external wall with
windows and a pointed entrance door. A large hall is divided by
two pointed arches with a central column. This bears some
comparison with the much grander 1260-80s work at Goodrich castle on the Welsh borders. The SW side of the castle is in a state of ruin.
Why not join me here and at other Sicilian
castles? Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly
Paul Martin Remfry