Caronia (Qaruniah) would appear to be an Arab fortress, although its heavy use of Roman tile may suggest an older Byzantine date.  It was described as ‘an ancient fortress' in Idrisi in the Book of Roger (1154), near or on which a new fort had been built.  The castle was later mentioned in the 1228 geographical dictionary of Yaqut.  The fortress, like most others in Sicily, remained royal and in 1272 King Charles (d.1285) had a squire as castellan and 4 serjeants in garrison.  The next year the garrison consisted of a lord, John Pons (Ponce), with 5 men.

In 1296 the castle was confirmed to Henry Ventimiglia after he claimed the Angevins had seized it from him.  On his death in 1308 it passed to Francesco Ventimiglia of Geraci (d.1338) who had placed Octinello Criono in charge of the garrison by 1321.  Francesco also had the castle repaired before his death in 1338 when the castle was in the possession of Matthew Palizzi (d.1353), who was married to Eufemia Ventimiglia (d.1340), the niece of Francesco.  By 1578 the castle was said to provide miserable living conditions for its garrison, although as late as 1584 it was still an important stronghold.  By 1750 the castle was merely ‘almost whole'.

The castle stands on top of a 1,000' high hill, near to the coast.  The site is divided into two wards, a rhomboid one to the east and a lesser ward to the west which is more triangular with the apex to the west.  The lesser ward appears a flimsier affair and only seems to have had little flanking.  A small square tower remains to the northeast.  This retains 3 Romanesque windows bounded in Roman brick.  At the west apex of the site more modern reconstructions suggests that a tower has fallen here. 

The main ward commands the only gentle approach to the site, from the east.  This had two rectangular towers to the southeast and the northeast, where there is a chapel which contains the remains of 2 Classical Greek columns.  To the southwest there is a large block which appears to be based around a large rectangular keep.  One of the mullioned windows of the keep bears a coat of arms of the Pignatelli family who were lords here after 1544.  The main entrance is ogival and made of a two tone pattern of limestone and brickwork.  This heavy use of bricks in the structure suggests Byzantine rather than Arab work.

The town to the southeast still retains one high gate of its defences.

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