The fortress is claimed to have been built by the Normans before 1100 on a site already fortified by the Arabs.  However, the battleship layout of the site
 suggests  a Byzantine foundation, similar to those sites discussed under Aci.  Delia castle occupies a position on a high limestone rock overlooking the Roman road from Roman Agrigentum to Catina.  It is suggested that one of the 8 stations in the Antonian Itinerary, Petiliana might have been Delia.  Certainly excavations between 1987 and 1995 found traces of Hellenistic materials as well as Castellucciana type grottos and tombs.  Also found in the rubbish pits on the east side of the site was material that suggested that the site was occupied from the second half of the tenth century to the first half of the twelfth.  There then appears to have been a period of abandonment following a fire.  Presumably this occurred during the Vespers when Nicholas Speciale recorded that the castle had been attacked.

The castle is said to have played an important role during the War of the Sicilian Vespers and from before 1296 it belonged to the Catalan Peter Lancia (d.1335+).  He was married to a daughter of Artale Alagon who was powerful in the Catania region.  Certainly Peter was holding the fortress in the late 1320s together with Caltanissetta and Naro.  By the time of King Martin (1392-1409) the castle was held by the Catalan vassal Pietro Mazza.  Around 1469 Delia castle was modified and enlarged, while the nearby town of Delia was only founded in 1622 by Don Gaspar Lucchese after obtaining permission to build and populate the town from King Philip II of Spain (1556-98).  Soon afterwards the casle was abandoned.

The castle mainly occupies a narrow north to south running stone ridge, the bulk of the fortress being no more than 30' wide, although it is some 220' long.  To the southwest is a rectangular outer ward with a rectangular turret at the southeast apex. This covers most of the west side of the castle.  The main castle, despite the outer ward to the west, was entered from the east via a north facing gateway.  This has been heavily restored and the modern concrete approach adorned with the remains of 2 Greek or Roman pillars.  The gate seems to have had an ogival arch although this has been much rebuilt.  This form of arch is first found in eighth century Islamic structures, although the passageway appears to have been barrel vaulted.  Perhaps the nearest example to this style is the main gateway at Sperlinga.  Within the gateway are many caverns that have been converted into storage cisterns.  South of the gate is the outer ward which encases the base of the rock and runs round to the west.

Steps up the back of the gateway led to further steps up the rock face protected by a covering wall.  This leads to a barrel vaulted room half built into the rock with narrow lighting loops.  The doorways and loops in this section of the castle seem Romanesque, but they could be heavily worn ogival embrasures.  Modern platforms allow access to the rebuilt battlements.  The chamber to the north with its 5 loops may have been an elongated D shaped tower.

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