Enna is one of the largest castles in Sicily and until 1926 was known as Castrogiovanni.  It stands on the sanctuary of Demeter and is named after the Lombard Guard of Adelasia (d.1118), wife of the Roger Hauteville (d.1101). 

Initially the site appears to have been founded by the Sicanians and was then taken over by the Greeks who issed coins from Hennaion.  Human presence in the fourteenth century BC has been uncovered and there are traces of a settlement for the eleventh century.  Of the early settlement all that can be seen are the remains of the necropolis of Pisciotto.  Enna repeatedly changed sides in the Punic wars, but by treachery, rather than by assault.  In 214 BC the Roman governor used his garrison to massacre the citizens who he had ordered into the theatre.  The city also was the centre of the First Servile War (134-132 BC) which also ended with the city's betrayal to the Romans.  Cicero (d.43 BC) stated that the temple of Ceres at Henna was of such great antiquity that Sicilians who went there were filled with religious awe.

Strabo (d.24 AD) mentioned Enna castle (Castrum Hennensis) as the fulcrum of the strong line that ran between Syracuse, the island's major city in the east, and Erice, the stronghold on the west coast.  This strongly suggests a Roman fort was here, although there is now no recognisable trace of such.  Instead there is a sacred complex which was probably for the worshipping of Ceres and Proserpina.  It has been argued that this lay within an ancient Acropolis.  It has been suggested that Roman fortifications stood at or near where the Tower of Federico stands today.  This line of thought follows that the ninth century Arabs then built Castrum Hennaeas a ‘Qasr', a walled city.  However, this ignores the fact that the Arabs failed to take the castle in 837 and only captured it early in 859 by coming one by one up the sewers revealed to them by a Byzantine prisoner.  Such defences suggest a strong site and therefore that what became the Lombard castle was already a Byzantine castrum in the ninth century at the latest. 

That the site was already a fortress is suggested as in the summer of 827 the possible strategos of Sicily, Balata, first retired on Enna after being defeated by the Muslims SE of Mazara.  In 834 the city was attacked again and in 835 the wife and son of the city commander were captured by Mahomet, but he was then murdered on his way to Palermo.  The fate of his captives is uncertain, but many slaves were sold in Africa at this time.  In 836 an Arab force was defeated outside Enna and in early 837 attackers succeeded in breaking into the city, but failed to take the castle.  They were then bought off and abandoned the city.  Again this shows that the castle was a force to be reckoned with at this time.

In 857/58, an Arab attack took the fortress of
qasr al-jadid.  This is thought to have been Mount Kassar, a fortress of similar size and maybe purpose as Enna.  The fall of the Byzantine fortress of Enna was followed by its sacking and the execution of its defenders on 24 January 859.  One source also states that after the battle of Cefalu when Abbas ibn Fadhi (d.861) defeated Constantine Kontomytes (d.860), which in turn had occurred soon after the fall of Enna, Enna castle was refortified by the Arabs.  Supposedly 8,000 residents of the city were massacred and the Arabs named their new castle Qasr Yanih - the fort of John.  In Sicilian this supposedly became Castru Janni and then Castrogiovanni.

Quite obviously Enna continued to be used as a fortress after it fell to the Arabs, for in 1061 it was unsuccessfully attacked by Robert Guiscard (d.1085) in his first attempt to conquer the island.  Then it was held by the Emir Ibn Hamud.  The castle proved so strong that the Normans never managed to take it although Count Roger Hauteville (d.1101) had built a siege castle at Calascibetta (Calataxibet) as early as 1074.  Enna only passed under Norman control when the wife and children of its emir, Ibn Hamud, were captured at the fall of Agrigento on 25 July 1086 after a siege beginning on 1 April.  Roger approached the Emir carefully and early in 1087 met with him at the base of the city plateau, where they agreed a compromise.  Some days later the emir led his forces out into a pre-prepared ambush where he was forced to lay down his arms and surrender his city.  The townsfolk in fear and exhaustion let Count Roger's men enter the castle and fortify the most powerful towers.  The emir then converted to Christianity and retired to Roger's domains in Calabria to live out the rest of his days as a rich Christian gentlemen.  By this Roger gained control of Enna and simply took over the pre-existing and most powerfully fortified castle.

The new Christian garrison obviously established a chapel in the fortress for in 1145 the chapel of Lombardia castle was mentioned.  The Arab geographer Ibn Al Edrisi in his 1154 Book of Roger states that Enna was ‘a city set on the summit of a mountain, enclosing a strong castle and a strong fortress'.   In 1197 the castle successfully saw off the armies of Henry VI, before his untimely death at Messina on 28 September.   Nearly fifty years later in 1239 Enna castle was one of the royal ‘castra exempta' whose castellans were directly appointed and removed by the emperor.  The Jamsilla Chronicle, possibly completed in 1262 or 1263, claimed that the castle within the town was built in the days of Frederick II (1197-1250).  Quite possibly this referred to Frederick's tower, rather than the castle which was actually outside the city.

In November 1254 the city folk rebelled and began to besiege the castle, although it was soon relieved by Peter Ruffo of Messina (d.1256+), who marched through Agiroto its relief.  His army advanced by a path that could only be attacked via the top of the castle walls and these were held by the castellan and his loyal citizens who manned the battlements.  The army therefore brushed aside the barricades built to impede their progress and the rebels retreated from the city.  After this the citizens appear to have attacked the fortress.  They then allowed the castellan safe conduct to leave, but when he tried to they broke their word and killed him.  The fortress was then largely destroyed.  In the summer of 1257, after the fall of Aidone and Piazza Armerina to Manfred's forces, Enna continued to resist.  Consequently Frederick Lancia surrounded the plateau on which the town stood and encircled it with a circumvallation.  At this the townsfolk surrendered rather than be besieged without hope of relief.  When Manfred arrived at the city in April 1258 he found that the castle had been destroyed and reduced to ruins.  Consequently, beliving the town indefensible without a fortress, he ordered it rebuilt and, considering the size and cost of such work, ordered all Sicily to help in the reconstruction.  This was obviously done by March or April 1262 when Count Henry Ventimiglia of Geraci captured in the Pisan tower one Giovanni Cocleria who was pretending to be the late Frederick II (d.1250).  King Charles (d.1285) also thought the castle highly important and on 3 May 1272 his chancellor set the garrison of the fortress at 50 knights, the same as number as were required to defend Messina.

During the Sicilian Vespers at Easter 1282 the castle suffered serious damage when the citizens attacked the Angevin garrison.  After this war Enna had a period of economic and political stability and saw Frederick III (d.1337) and his court staying on several occasions, the parliament meeting here in 1313 and 1327.  Indeed, Queen Eleanor is said to have founded the duomo there in 1307.  King Louis (d.1355) between September and October 1349 when civil war waged between his Catalan and Angevin barons.  With Louis' death the place slipped into a gentle decline.

Enna stands some 3,050' high, roughly centrally in Sicily and therefore known as Sicily's navel as it was roughly a day's travel to the three island coasts from the fortress.  The summit of the gigantic highly irregular hill with a circumference of 3 miles, is surrounded on all sides by cliffs which make it both inaccessible and easily defendable. 

There can be little doubt that the castle marks the site of the earliest fortifications at Enna, overlying as they do the sanctuary and possible acropolis.  An idea has been bandied about that the first castle was built on the Rupe di Cerere site where there is supposed to be a buried curtain wall with two square turrets.  If these do exist they are more likely to be an outwork to protect this side of the castle.  One source further states that the current castle is Byzantine and once had 20 square towers in its pentagonal plan, of which six currently remain.  What certainly exists is a castle of 3 irregular wards and a barbican occupying the rocky ledge on the edge of the plateau on which stands the modern and ancient town.

The castle was apparently entered via a south facing gate set in a barbican which runs along the entire west, town face of the fortress.  Like at so many other castles - Calatabiano, Calatabellotta, Erice, Mussomeli and Taormina, the outer face of this gate is ogival, but the interior is rounded.  At the north end of the barbican is a further ogival gate which is probably later and marks the current entrance to the site.  Both entrances were commanded by towers from the outer ward, now known as the St Nicholas bailey.  Both of these project solely to the west.  Excavation has shown that the rock on which this barbican stands was quarried out in the fifth century BC.  In the sixteenth century the walls were restored for guns, with a cistern being added to the north and a well to the south.

From the barbican the outer ward, or St Nicholas bailey, was entered roughly centrally on the north side of a projecting tower - one of 3 commanding the barbican.  This tower was demolished in the sixteenth century refurbishment, but the steps running up to its upper levels can still be made out in the ward.  The hole in the wall type gate again has an ogival opening to the exterior and a round arch within.  The upper sections of this wall have obviously been replaced.  The name of St Nicholas bailey obviously comes from the lost church of the same name which stood here as late as the sixteenth century - St Nicholas was the patron saint of the Hautevilles and this was presumably the chapel mentioned in 1145.  The ward itself lies at a lower elevation than the rest of the castle, which has towers commanding this ward, just as this bailey has towers that only project west into the barbican.  To the NW are remains of the sixteenth century barracks.  Excavation has shown that like the barbican this area was a Greek quarry in the fifth century BC.  Later in the fifth and fourth century BC votive pits were cut and finally replaced with a Roman and then a Byzantine necropolis.  It was during the latter times that a moat was dug in front of the main castle walls.  This has been excavated to the SE and was filled in by the fourteenth century.  Centrally to the north is the entrance to the sanctuary of Demeter.  This is a vast gallery with a funnel-shaped mouth leading to a descending ramp floor which leads to an underground room with niches for lamps and possible a gigantic sepulchre as well as a water collection tank which may be of a later date.  At the end is a small tunnel that goes out to the level of the external road.  This was opened in the last century.  The water tank is fed from a complex system for collecting rainwater which was then carried up to a water trough placed in the NW corner of the castle where there is now a small fountain.

In the NW corner of the ward stands the Campana tower of 2 floors.  This rectangular structure has a modern tiled roof and was used as a prison.  Consequently it has no windows.  In the upper cell the plaster still bears the signs of the prisoners' graffiti which consists of calendars, threats, poems and signatures.  This was known as the bell tower as it contained the bell that alerted the city in the event of a prison break.  The upper floor is reached via a staircase that runs up to the wallwalk along the south face of the garrison complex.  This room has a fine rectangular window with an intricate shell carving on top.  The lack of other openings suggests the tower has been much modified.  At the opposite end of the west wall is the Torre della Guardia.  This looks like an addition to the old south curtain wall, judging by the junction.  It has one south facing loop at curtain wallwalk level and one large ogival light to the north on the floor below.  Entrance was via a doorway from the ward at this level, which is 6' higher than the external barbican side.

From the outer ward access to the middle ward was gained via a gate placed in the curtain between the Torre della Catena and the Torre dell'Harem.  Again this was ogival externally and Romanesque internally.  To the south of the Catena tower, on a line with the front of the south tower to the north, a rock cut ditch was dug as a part of the old Byzantine fortress, the resultant stone being used for the castle wall.  This suggests that the original Byzantine castle, dated from the time of the Muslim attacks on Sicily beginning in 652 and ending with the conquest of Enna in 859.  This fortress therefore included both the Maddalena and San Martino wards.  The large Maddalena ward is so called as the church of St Mary Magdalen once stood here.  All trace of this is now removed.  This possibly happened in the 1940s when the interior was excavated to provide water cisterns for the town.  At the SW end of the curtain is a rectangular tower called the south tower.  This projects mainly into the outer ward, but is entered from the north.  An early sketch of the castle shows a similar tower at the SE corner of the ward, but there is no longer any trace of this, the wall around this corner having been totally replaced until it butts awkwardly with the east tower at the easternmost apex of the site.  From here the original wall turns NW towards the upper or San Martino ward.  Just before the upper ward is reached a postern gate leads down towards the Rocca di Cerere.

Of this ward's towers the Catena tower has 2 floors, the upper floor being reached via the wallwalks.  The ground floor is entered via a doorway to the south and has a blocked large ogival window to the west and a small loop to the north commanding the gate.  Just beyond the south wall of the tower, set in the curtain, is a smaller single blocked light.  This would indicate that a building once stood on the east side of this wall.  There appears to be no access to the wallwalks from either the south or the Catena towers.  The east tower is entered from the west and has small loops in its 3 faces.  The curtain to the east seems to have had many buildings butting against it.

Entrance into the inner or St Martin's ward was gained via yet another hole in the wall gate, commanded by the Harem tower.  This led into a polygonal enclosure containing 6 rectangular towers, of which 3 are similar.  The Torre dell'Harem is rectangular with a later entrance to the south from the middle ward.  An external thickening in its north wall probably suggests that external steps led up to the first floor from here.  Certainly from the wallwalk above where the thickening ends another flight of steps led up to another chamber on the second floor of the tower.  At some point the west curtain of the ward was cut through and a second rectangular tower added to make the Harem tower into a double structure, but the eastern, older half has thicker walls.  A doorway was also added into the outer ward and the middle ward.  The ashlar masonry of the west half of the tower is quite dissimilar to that of the adjoining curtain.  East of the Harem tower, which commands the entrance t the inner ward, is the Maddalena tower, which appears similar to the original Harem tower.  Both these towers are boldly projecting into the middle ward.  There are two towers along the east wall, one, the NE Zecca tower, being slightly projecting to the east.  The other, at the south end of a long rectangular building of at least 2 storeys, butting the east curtain is the False tower.  This was totally internal and makes an unusual junction with the middle ward curtain above the false gate postern.  The Zecca tower seems to have a filled in basement judging by the loops to the east covering the Rocca.

From the Zecca tower the curtain runs west up to the rocky heart of the site on which the Torre Pisana dominates the entire castle.  From the Pisana the curtain runs back down the craggy eminence to the Harem tower.  Between the towers lie the remnants of the palace or palatium with its Romanesque loops cut through the curtain wall into the outer ward.  The north portion of this has been demolished, probably at the time of the uprising of the citizens on the death of Frederick II in 1250.  This section was then replaced by the Pisana tower, probably built at the instruction of King Manfred (d.1266).  This tower has a strong sloping plinth and, like its compatriots, few windows, those there are being small, like its entrance door.  On its south front the Romanesque vault apparently marks the roof of the old palatium.  The tower, built in such an awkward position is not rectangular, perhaps containing some elements of the old palatium in its lower floor.  It is of 3 storeys, the upper one having a well carved cross vault.  Entrance was original gained from the first floor to the south through the palatium.  Internally, in a small, irregular room with a west wall twice the thickness of any other, a stair winds its way from this door to the roof, which has been recrenellated in the last century.  From the summit most of Sicily is visible.

By the eighteenth century Lombardia castle was already partially in ruins and in 1837 Ferdinando II of Borbone judged it militarily useless.  It was later used as a prison until 1887 when the castle was described as in total disrepair.  In the 1930s the first courtyard was transformed into an open-air theatre inaugurated in 1938, while vast water tanks were constructed under the ‘yard of the victuals'.  During the second world war the castle saw its last military use when soldiers were garrisoned here.  Afterwards, starting in 1951, heavy restoration works were carried out.

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