Gela - Castelluccio

Castelluccio is first mentioned as a place in 1143 when Count Simon Vasto of Butera granted land here to the abbot of St Nicholas.  Such a name implies a fortification, however inconclusive excavations in the 1990s only returned ceramics dating back to the fourteenth century.  Much earlier in 836, the Arabs captured and lost a site called Qastaliasali, which just might be Castelluccio or Castel di Lucio in the north.

After the fall of the lords of Butera in the 1160/61 rebellions against King William (d.1166) it is to be presumed that the castle was resumed by the Crown.  In 1230/33 Frederick II (d.1250) refounded Gela as Eraclea or Terranuova and it was called such until it assumed Gela once more in 1297.  In 1254 Eraclea rebelled against Peter Ruffo of Messina (d.1256+).

The name Eraclea does not seem to have covered the castle as in 1296 the fee passed from the Crown to Eleanor Plantagenet (d.1297), the widow of King Alphonso III (d.1291), as Castellucci.  In 1314 the Sicilian parliament met here, but in 1325 Gela, as Terranova, fell to the Angevins.  By 1330 it was back in the hands of the queen.

The castle was certainly standing a little before the 1348/50 siege of Terranova by the Aragonese as it is reported as damaged in the fighting.  It may have been held by Anselm Moach at this time.  Castelluccio was mentioned again in 1364 when it was granted by King Frederick IV (d.1377) to Perollo Mohac.  At the end of the century King Martin (d.1409) granted it to Richard Impanella, while around 1500 it was badly damaged by fire.  Soon after it was extended and raised in height, fossilizing the old battlements in the new work.  It was again abandoned, possibly due to the earthquake of 1542.  Finally the east tower collapsed around 1930 and the castle was bombarded during the Sicily landings of 10 July 1943.

The castle tops an outcrop of chalky rock some 5 miles north of the ancient acropolis of Gela and commands the intersection of the roads leading to Piazza Armerina, Butera and Mazzarino.  The fortress consists of a hall block with 2 square towers at either end.  The western tower is offset to the south to make room for a Romanesque entrance arch.  The eastern tower is central.  A turret to the southeast has been rebuilt from the ground up in 1993.  The west tower has a cistern in its basement and a garderobe to the south, which, with the positioning of the castle entrance, may explain its offset and slight projection beyond the southern enceinte.  The whole is rubble built, with thin levelling courses and fine ashlar quoining at the corners.  The large windows in the main block to north and south are Romanesque, although there are other simple loops in the same wall.

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


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