The history of Giuliana castle is mostly obscure.  Some suggest that the keep was built by Frederick II (d.1250) purely on stylistic grounds, while other suggest that the fact that Frederick III (d.1337) spent some time here in 1332 indicates that he built it.  Neither suggestion is impossible, but the latter seems more probable.  Certainly the increase in the size of the hamlet from 200 people in 1277 to nearly 2,000 by 1376 suggests the place suffered few ill effects in the fourteenth century.  The exterior walls of the castle, set in a semicircle around the inner fortress, were converted into a monastery soon after 1648.

The castle lies some 2,400' above sea level and forms an unusual and irregular horseshoe shaped site about 250' in diameter.  The outer defences consist of a polygonal ward in a semi-circular shape protecting the inner defences.  There is no real flanking, with undefended corners abounding, but there is a rectangular tower to the north and a sloping buttress to the northwest.  A door west of the buttress overlies an older portal.  The masonry consists of well laid ruble without Roman tiles and, as the stones are reasonably well cut, no corner quoins.  Buildings line the enceinte which are still in use.  The outer ward was obviously built at a different time to the inner defences.

Within the outer defences is the unusual inner ward which is not connected to the outer enceinte.  The core is made up of 2 rectangular buildings at a slight angle overhanging the cliff face to the south.  Centrally to the north is a projecting 3 storey pentagonal tower 62' high with sides 24' long and walls 7' thick.  This is one of only 3 in Sicily, the others being 
Erice outer ward (Torri de Ballo)  and that thought to lie at the mostly destroyed Swabian castle of Augusta.  Sadly the top of the Giuliana tower was removed in the early 1900s and the entire fortress has been heavily restored.  The keep masonry is of a lower quality than the outer ward, being roughly shaped blocks, levelled by slabs of stone inserted in any spaces to make a reasonably laid rubble wall.  The quoins are made of sandstone, but the apertures are of tufa which gives the keep an ornamental look.  The entrance gate to the inner complex is covered from the keep by a crossbow loop which has a small gun port inserted into its base.  The forward faces have only a singular loop to the northeast at internal ground floor level, while the east face has a shoulder headed window to the east.  The first floor has a similar window.  Such windows, although these appear to be insertions, are generally thought of as dating from 1250 to 1350, while the polyongal towers are also similar to some late thirteenth century works in Wales, viz, Caernarfon, Denbigh and Kidwelly chapel.

The two buildings on either side of the keep obviously predate it, having several Romanesque apertures within them.  The main gate has a drawbar slot, but it's jambs have been replaced in modern times, and the external voussoirs have apparently been replaced with red tufa slabs.  Within the gateway is a small, open to the air chamber with steps up to the roof to the west, the vaulted great tower lying to the northeast.  Through the gate chamber is a level platform with cisterns underneath and grand views of the valley to the south.  The vaulted chambers on either side of the keep have rib vaults and a mixture of pointed and Romanesque arches, probably suggesting that the range is the earliest structure and the tower was added to it probably a hundred and more years later.  The block is barely defensible without the outer ward.  Possibly the castle started as a fortified hall block which was expanded with the tower and then the outer curtain at a later date.  This district was under attack by the Angevins in the early fourteenth century before the 1302 treaty of Caltabellotta.  The polygonal tower certainly appears more fourteenth century than thirteenth, although the south access to the hall block roof has a Romanesque doorway, that appears to be a replacement, next to a shoulder headed window.  That said, the internal doorway (lowered with a pointed doorway within) and associated embrasure in the south wall of the keep at ground floor are both Romanesque.

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


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry