Euphemius was a Byzantine commander who brought Saracens to help him in his Sicilian revolt in 827, thus starting the Muslim occupation of the island.  In the mid twelfth century the Arab traveller and geographer Idrisi described Eufemio as an ‘ancient castle' with ‘a populated village'.  This supports a possible Byzantine foundation date for the castle.  The fortress would appear to have remained royal under the Normans and the Emperor Frederick II (d.1250) utilised it in his fight against the local Muslim rebels in the 1220s.  As such it was used to besiege the nearby village of Calatabarbaro with its castle of Calatafimi, on top of the acropolis of Segesta.  Afterwards, presumably when the trouble was passed, the castle was granted to the feudal lords of Calatafimi.  In 1282, at the start of the Sicilian Vespers, the French lord of the castle, William Porcelet, due to the esteem he was held in by his subjects because of his benevolence and justice, was escorted from the castle with his family to Palermo 30 miles away where he embarked for Provence, never to return.  It then reverted to being a royal fortress and then a prison until 1868, when it was abandoned.

The castle occupies a rock dominating the west side of Calatafimi-Segesta.  The heart of the castle is a thick walled hall keep about 45' east to west by 35' north to south standing towards the north end of the site.  The south and west walls of the keep still stand some 30' high and were entered via 2 ground floor doorways from the inner courtyard to the west and southwest.  Both their strongly pointed arches have been recently rebuilt.  The quoining on the southwest corner has also been replaced, the lower part recently, the upper part probably in the middle ages.  The rest of the tower is rubble built, including the corners.

The main outer defences on this side and to the east, where the modern entrance and probably the original gate was, are now mainly down.  To the south and west the ruins are better preserved and show a rectangular agglomeration of buildings which proceed down the rock face.  In style it is somewhat similar to the remains on the hill above of the supposedly thirteenth century fortress on the hill above at Calatafimi-Segesta and that on the hill at Cefalu.

Towards the southern end of the site is another rectangular tower, smaller than the hall keep to the north, and with thinner walls and an entrance to the west.  An eastern curtain once joined the 2 towers and just north of the south tower is a rectangular gatetower which gave access via its 2 pointed archways and a gate passageway into the inner courtyard between the 2 great towers.  The courtyard allowed access to the later prison on the south side in which the prisoners' graffiti still remains.  Water cisterns remain along the western cliff face.  The bulk of the remains are rubble built and contain few Roman tiles or bricks, unlike other early sites, viz. Aci, Calatabianco, Castelmola, Castronovo, Cefala Diana (slight), Cefalu (slight), Erice, Francavilla, Geraci Siculo, Milazzo, Mistretta, Nicosia, Rometta, Sperlinga and Vicari.

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