Standing high above Castronovo di Sicily is the plateau of Mount
Kassar. This was fortified by the Byzantines against Arab
aggression some time probably soon after their annexation of Africa
in 639-98. Excavation has shown that the fortress ceased to
be used after the capture of eastern Sicily by the Arabs. Quite
possibly the site was the qasr al-jadid that fell to Arab forces in 857-58 and was followed the next year by the fall of Enna - a fortress of similar dimensions. Whether the true castle lower down the slope at Colle San Vitale was founded by the Arabs after the fall of the main fortress or was already an integral part of the defences is another matter.
Mount Kassar fortress form a D shape above Castronovo di Sicily with
all the fortifications lying on the straight side of the bow to the
north, some 1½ miles long. Like Hadrian's Wall these
defences utilise the lie of the land and consist of 11 rectangular
towers with 2 twin towered gatehouses.
The eastern gatehouse has been fully excavated and shows that it
was defended with twin gates with a portcullis behind. The area
behind the defences is divided into an upper and a lower section due to
the geography of the land, while the rest of the C of the bow appear to
have no defences at all, apart from the cliffs and steep slope.
The area defended by the wall is roughly similar to that thought
to have been occupied by the fortress of Enna, suggesting that the 2 were built as part of the same defensive system.
Why not join me at other Sicilian
castles? Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly
Paul Martin Remfry