The village of Misilmeri is supposed to have been founded during the Arab occupation of Sicily (after 827) and was called Manzil al Amir, probably meaning something like House of the Emir.  This foundation is attributed, without foundation, to Emir Giafar II who ruled Sicily from 996 to 1018.  In 1068 Roger Hauteville, the future Count Roger I, beat the Arabs in a pitched battle, supposedly beneath the castle walls.  Roger then granted the castle to Admiral George Antioch (d.1151/2).  He in turn gave it to Palermo diocese after 1072.  The first church was built before 1123 when it was mentioned by Pope Callistus II (1119-24), but the first mention of a castle was in the Book of Roger of 1154. 

In 1296 Castro Misilmeri was held by John Caltagirono of Panhormo Senior and by his son another John Caltagirono in the late 1320s.  By 1340 it had passed to Giovanni Chiaramonte (d.1342), then his son Henry (d.1348+) and finally Giovanni Moncada Chiaramonte (d.1374).  It was enlarged substantially by his successor, Manfred III Chiaramonte (d.1391).  In 1392, on the exectution of Andrew Chiaramonte, the castle was granted to William Raymond III Moncada.

Perched on a low cliff above the village of Misilmeri are the remains of a rectangular tower keep set within a ward.  Like Byzantine castles this stretches along an E-W ridge, but unlike Byzantine castles there seems a lack of flanking and deeper defences, the site being about 450' long by 125' at its widest.  The site is also not as rocky or high as more likely Byzantine castles, viz. 
Aci, Calatabianco, Castelmola, Cefala Diana, Cefalu, Erice, Francavilla, Geraci Siculo, Milazzo, Mistretta, Nicosia, Rometta, Sperlinga and Vicari.

Misilmeri keep is about 60' high, but only the south face remains, standing to its full height.  The entrance doorway is in this face, just above the boldly projecting plinth.  Surrounding the tower, in the heart of the castle, were various other rooms.  The building abutting this side had multiple vaults under its first floor roof.  The upper chamber in the keep had a large window to the south.  There was a rectangular square tower in the bailey to the south which still stands to its full battlemented height, although it has later buildings built alongside it.  To the rear it has a round window at the upper floor and retains half its roof vault.  Possibly this was the chapel built by the Chiaramontes after 1340.  They are also said to have added concentric walls.  In the ward is a recently restored eighteenth century prison, complete with graffiti.  Much of the castle has an Arabic feel.

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