Monreale - Castellaccio

Castellaccio di Monreale is thought to have been built in the eleventh century by Count Roger Hauteville (d.1101) after the fall of Palermo in 1072, although its existence is first recorded in the thirteenth century.  The fortress is noted as being damaged by Giovanni Chiaramonte of Misilmeri's troops in 1370 when he attacked Catalan forces in the vicinity.  In the fifteenth century it was granted to the bishops of Monreale and became a refuge for Benedictine monks.  It seems to have been abandoned in the sixteenth century.

The castle, like so many others, stands atop an eminence (Monte Caputo, 2,500') and although the site is rocky, it is not a crag similar to those on which Byzantine castles tend to stand - see Aci castle for a list of these Byzantine fortresses.  Castellaccio dominates Monreale and beyond it, Palermo.  The whole complex is about 260' long by 100' wide and oddly has the most defensive towers to the west where the approach is most difficult.  The highest point of the underlying hill is to the north where the approach is.

The fortress is approached from the north and entered through an ogival gateway into a long rectangular gatetower of 2 storeys.  This has a dog legged turn to the west which exits into a hall with a large corner tower at its west end.  There was also a further structure on the north face of this tower as is evidenced by the toothing projecting from the enceinte wall.

Beyond this entrance complex is a rectangular ward with a roofed church within it.  Around the enceinte are various buildings, most in a state of disrepair.  The ward has 2 smaller rectangular towers at its southern end and a singular similar tower half way down the west wall.  The walls are just defensible at a mere 5' thick.  Although the wall tops have a narrow step back, this is too small to have been a wallwalk.  More likely this was the step to accommodate a wooden wallwalk, supported from below.  To the west the curtain is pierced with narrow crossbow loops at first floor level.  These would also have acted as lights for the rooms within.  The rectangular towers also have singular loops at this level on this face, although the large northwest tower has 2 and more in its north face.  All the towers have sloping plinths to the west.  The upper floors in all the towers have been much damaged, but the northwest tower had external windows to north and west.

Beyond the main ward to the south is another enclosure approached via a long, narrow corridor.  Through the gateway in the lower, or further ward is a square court which would appear to have been a monastic cloister.  This has another long building south of the cloister with two towers to east and west, with the western tower being the larger of the two.  This was the monastic church and has a cistern underneath.

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