The castle seems to have predated the town of Savoca, while archaeology has suggested a Roman or Byzantine foundation.  The village was founded (or refounded) in 1134 by King Roger (d.1154) around the rock of Pentefur.  Later sources claim that this was an Arab castle, hence its name, Castello Saraceno.  By 1154 Idisi seems to call the place Sant ‘Lli, possibly a corruption of Balm for Savoca Palmi, a place which still existed in the vicinity in 1826.  In 1282 Savoca provided 20 arches to the army of Peter of Aragon as he moved against the Angevins around Messina.  The castle and a casale were mentioned in 1308, while on 30 November 1355, William Rosso, the brother of Count Henry Rosso of Aidone (d.1388), was confirmed as castellan of Savoca.  This was when King  Frederick IV (d.1377) confirmed that the archimandrites of Messina spent the summer months of the year in Pentefur castle where they had a chapel.  This chapel is now the current church of St Michele just NE of the castle.  After the massacre of Messina in 1356, Arrigo Rosso, the brother of Count William of Aidone (d.1388), took refuge in the castle, which the king then transferred to Frederick Giordano.  In 1385 Frederick was replaced by Tommaso Crisafi of Messina.  Tommaso was still governor in 1396 when he was accused of corruption by King Martin (d.1409) and the fortress was eventually returned to the archimandrites of Messina, the feudal lords of Savoca.

Between 1421 and 1450 Archimandrite Luca IV moved his court permanently to Pentefur castle and in 1480 Archimandrite Lorenzo II restored the fortress.  Some 50 years later in 1531 the castle was ‘remade in greater circuit and more magnificent form' by Diego Requenses.  Like many other castles of eastern Sicily, Pentefur was heavily struck by the earthquake of 1693.  Despite this in the early eighteenth century the castle was repaired by the archbishops of Messina and the town had walls added and 2 gates, one of which still survives today.  This has an ogival arch of good quality masonry, but the wall it stands in is rubble built, although the lower portions are of ashlar.  The upper rubble section has good quality tile levelling courses and is generally of a better standard than the castle walls.  Regardless of any rebuilding the castle was abandoned around 1780 and subsequently used as a stone quarry.

Pentefur castle occupies the summit of the largest of a series of hills south of Savoca.  The heart of the fortress is a quadrangular ward about 100' east to west and some 40' north to south.  This contained several buildings built along the walls and stands upon a natural rocky motte.  Along the east wall was a large chamber, while against the north wall were 2 smaller chamber to the west with a much large room between them and the eastern chamber.  The southwest portion may have been a courtyard, although the enceinte has been destroyed here.  West of the inner ward was a tapering enclosure that may have been a barbican.  Surrounding this to the south and west was a lower ward, the western portion of which has gone, although a deep cistern was at its northwest apex.  There are also some surviving battlements along this section of wall with a wallwalk behind.  The wall is made of a very poorly laid rubble interspersed with much red tile.  Quite possibly this is the site of the original Byzantine fortress and it bears some comparison with Buscemi castle, as well as the other Byzantine fortresses listed under Aci castle.

West of the castle proper is another long ward which terminates to the west in an elongated D shaped platform.  This is almost certainly the early sixteenth century extension of Diego Requenses.

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