There would appear to have been 3 castles at or near Corleone.  The first is thought to have been at Castello Della Montagna Vecchia about a mile south of the current town.  Corleone was recorded as a Byzantine fortress in 840 when it was forced to pay tribute to the Muslims.  In 970 it was mentioned as an Arab city called Qurliun.  The conquest of Palermo by the Normans in 1072 probably also saw the fall of Arab Corleone and the place was mentioned as inhabited in 1093.  In the 1154 Book of Roger, Idrisi mentions ‘Corleone, a strong, well-built and defensible castle'.  Again in 1176 it was recorded as a castellum and was further mentioned concerning the lands of Monreale in 1182.

During the Muslim rebellion of the early thirteenth century, Corleone castle was occupied by rebels to the Emperor and to the Archbishop of Monreale in 1208.  Crushing the revolt caused Frederick II (d.1250) much trouble - see Eufemio- and in 1237 he populated the land of Corleone with Lombard refugees from the mainland.  Twelve years later in 1249 he took the place back into the royal domain to be strongly garrisoned and ready to resist any assaults of any enemies.  Despite this in May 1272 it was recorded that there was an Angevin garrison here of just one squire.

In 1274 Corleone castle was repaired for the benefit of all in that territory and it was still fortified in 1281, immediately before the Sicilian Vespers war.   As royalist castles presumably they changed hands in 1282, but in 1325 they fell again to the Angevins.  In 1338 there was obviously a castle of upper or superior (superioris)  Corleone as Peter Pontecorono was its castellan.  This was obviously different to the lower (inferioris) castle which had Sir Roderick Viel as castellan in 1326, presumably this meant that the castles were again held for the Aragonese.  By the 1330s the town was in a state of terrible decay and even the local aristocratic family, the Pontecoronos, abandoned the place for Palermo due to the stagnation of trade and the collapse of the population from an estimated 30,000 before the Vespers to only 6,000 in 1374.

Despite all these troubles there were ‘castles' in Corleone in both 1355 and 1375 when Curillionum with its 2 castles were held by the Crown.  It seems likely that these 2 castles were those actually in the town - Soprano and Sottano.  At least one of these was still garrisoned for the Crown by Roger Paruta in 1407.  Obviously it is pretty much impossible to guess which of the 3 castles were the ones mentioned in the above history.

Castello Della Montagna Vecchia
The Old Mountain is a vast isolated plateau with sheer cliffs, located about a mile south of Corleone.  The castle is on the southwest side of the mountain summit covering an area of some 400' by 170'.  The site was partially excavated in 1992-4 and pottery was found dating from Byzantine to Swabian times.

Corleone - Soprano Castle
The castle occupies a 2,820' high isolated cliff overlooking the current town and overlooking the monastery of St Salvatore and the ancient churches of Maria SS del Malo Passo and St Michael the Archangel.  The castle is on the 110' long, 40' wide neck of an arrow head of land that projects like a spear towards the medieval heart of Corleone.  There is no masonry on the spearhead protected by the main rhomboid shaped rock of the castle.  The only masonry that remains on the neck is a round rubble-built tower, some 25' in diameter.  It appears to have been freestanding and was entered at it's ground floor from the west.  That it is round has led to the suggestion that it is Swabian and was built by the Lombards in the 1230s or 1240s.  It was ruinous before the eighteenth century.  Its position suggests that it was the Superior castle.

Corleone - Castello Sottano
It is presumed that this was the inferior or lower castle, although this is not certain.  It stands on a high, isolated, tear drop shaped, crag on the west side of the medieval town.  It is about 110' across at its widest and about 220' long.  Its greater size to Soprano castle may suggest that this is the superior castle.  Certainly it is on a more impressive crag and the site is now occupied by the St Bernard hermitage which replaces an older prison.  There are no certain traces of a castle. 

Why not join me at other Sicilian castles?  Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly Sojourns.


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