Mongialino or Mineo

The castle lies above the Catania plain some 6½ miles NW of Mineo.  There was apparently a fortress at Mineo in the spring of 828, when the Muslim army, retreating from Syracuse, besieged it for 3 days and forced its surrender.  Presumably this the site of the older Greek defences and not Mongialino castle.  Mineo changed hands again the next year, but was finally taken and destroyed by the Arabs in 830.

In 1154 Edrisi mentioned a hamlet at Malga al-Khalil - the refuge of Khalil.  It would seem likely that the castle here when Mineo was granted to Bartholomew Lucy (d.1200) by the Emperor Henry VI (d.1197) in 1194 when he made him count of Paterno.  In 1199 Bartholomew gave Mineo to his daughter, Margaret, who was wife or widow of Count Pain Paris of Avellino.  It would seem likely that this grant included Mongialino.  Early the next year Margaret renounced the lands given to her by her now deceased father and Mongialino passed to Manfred Mazzarino.  In May 1272 the Angevin garrison of Mineo was set at the rather large force of 12 knights, while Mazzarino was not mentioned at all.  It is therefore rather surprising that in 1287 it was recorded that both Mazzarino and Mongialino were seized from John Mazzarino who was described as a son of Manfred Mongialino.  It is possible that Manfred Mongialino and the Manfred Mazzarino of 1200 are one and the same person. 

Mongialino castle seems to have usually been royal property from 1200, but before 1320 it had passed under the control of Blasco Lancia who was also lord of Syracuse and Galati.  In 1386 the Lancias sold the castle to Artale Alagona of Mistretta (d.1389).  When he died he left an only daughter,
Maria, as heiress, consequently King Martin seized Mineo with its castle of Mongialino and passed it on to William Raymond Moncada.  In 1397 he invested the Statellas of Catania with the castle and hamlet of Mongialino and they held it until the abolition of feudalism, despite an attempt by the Cruyllas family of Calatabiano and the Alagonas in trying to recover it by law in 1410.  In 1757 Abbot Vito Amico noted that the castle was almost intact and that there had been an attempt to revive the nearby settlement in the last century.

The rocky hill on which the castle of Mongialino near Mineo stands shows evidence of human activity dating back to the twelfth century BC.  The heart of the fortress is a large round tower keep with a rectangular bailey to the east.  Some battlements still remain on the better preserved north wall of this.  In the mid eighteenth century a gate and drawbridge were still discernable, apparently being a square gatetower central in the destroyed south curtain wall.  Chambers ran along the south certain and a big coral or building lay in the northeast corner.  Small round towers are said to have lain at the 3 exposed corners to northeast, southeast and southwest.

The keep has a diameter of 40' with walls nearly 7' thick.  Intriguingly the tower has a massive internal pillar 27' across from which vaults make a passageway around it.  Within the pillar is a water cistern, once fed from the roof.  The resulting circular chamber was about 14' wide and was entered from the east via a simple ground floor doorway.  In the eighteenth century the tower was of 4 storeys, although now only the well battered ground floor and fragments of the first floor remains.  The upper floor appears to be of a similar plan to the basement.  Recently it has been shown that these chambers were divided into 2 by wooden floors, thus making the 4 storeys recorded by Amico.  Together this makes the tower unique. 

The western half of the Migaido keep has now collapsed and the remains show much instability and the potential for further massive falls.  To the south is a singular tall fragment of wall standing 42' high, which has been interpreted as a battlement due to one side of it being faced.  However, this might be simply a window, although traces of a single pitched roof as said to remain in it.  The whole consists of well laid rubble blocks with narrow blocks occasionally making up levelling courses.

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