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 north and east 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 killed.

The castle is polygonal in shape with projecting rectangular towers to northwest and southwest, that to the northwest having fine fourteenth century machicolations and a Chiaramonte type twin light window similar to those at Sperlinga.  The buttress on the southwest 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 southwest 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 Sojourns.


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry