La Cuba

In 1180 King William II (d.1189) built La Cuba as one of his palaces - a pavilion of delights.  Cuba probably stands for cuboid.  The building is recorded in an arabic epigraph on the attic wall of the building which says:

[In] the name of God clement and merciful, watch here, stop and aim!  You will see the fine room of the honourable among the kings of all the earth, William II, the Christian king, there is no castle that is worthy of him... both perennial praise to God.  Keep him filled and give him his life-long benefits.  The Messiah is one thousand and one hundred, eighty additional, of our Lord, who have been so happy courses.

Cuba stood in a royal park called the flower garden (Ghenoard).   In 1320 La Cuba was owned by Count Barca Siginolfo and later King Peter II (d.1342) and then other private citizens.  During the plague of 1575/76, Cuba was used as a hospital and remained one until 1626.  In the eighteenth century the Borgognona cavalry was located here and the building underwent further renovations, which were followed by reconstructions and modifications.

The tower is 102'x55' with four turrets protruding at the centre of each side, the most prominent being the only access across the surrounding lake to the mainland.  In this respect it is somewhat similar to the similarly 20 sided keep at Trim in Ireland which dates to the 1170s.  La Cuba was a large pavilion where the king stayed during the day, attended parties and ceremonies, as well as rested and refreshed during the hot days.  The building is of only one central floor and is divided into 3 parts, having no private apartments.  Over time it has suffered serious collapses and alterations, due to its adaptation to a store and then a barracks.  Today the artificial lake has disappeared, being transformed into the barracks courtyard.  The external walls are adorned with ogival blind arcades.  Normally such blind arcades are religious and Romanesque, viz. Palermo and Monreale cathedrals, or St Leonard's Tower in Kent, England. 

In the lower part of La Cuba are some windows separated by masonry pillars.  The thick walls and the few windows are thought to offer greater resistance to heat.  It is further believed that most windows were on the northeast side, because the fresh winds coming from the sea, humidified by the waters of the surrounding lake, came from this side.  In the centre of the cube was an impluvium in the shape of an eight-pointed star, which served as a basin for collecting rainwater as well as for cooling the structure.  Inside the walls are niches with plaster decorations called the Muqarnas.  Of these stalactites only one remains mostly intact.  The exterior of the tower has been much restored, although it is generally easy to tell the old from refurbishment.

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