The castle
at Pietraperzia would appear to be another Byzantine ridge site, of which the major ones are listed under Aci castle.  In the Book of Roger of 1154, the Castle Barresio di Pietraperzia was described as ‘a sturdy castle and a solid fortress'.  Around 1200 the lordship was given to the Barresi family by Pope Innocent III (d.1218), when he was regent of the kingdom for Frederick II (d.1250).  In 1296 Petrapertia was held from Frederick III (d.1337) by Abbate Barresi.   Barresi rebelled on the king's seizure of Caltabellotta after his coronation.  This powerful castle then held out against the Crown for 3 years, before being forced to surrender on the terms of simply returning to the king's fealty.  Abbate was still holding it in the late 1320s.  The last of the main line of the Barresis died out in 1571 and the castle passed to a nephew, the son of Prince Braciforte.  He seems to have equipped the castle with large cannons and ravelins.  As the castle was abandoned the  armoury was transferred to Agrigento museum, but the armour and weapons were looted by rioters in 1820.

The Byzantine fortress occupies a normal position for such castles, the edge of a rocky limestone cliff overlooking the town to the southeast.  Once more it is long and narrow, but on a massive scale, being some 360' long by 100' wide at its extremities.  The heart of the castle is a great oblong keep, about 100' long by 40' wide.  This is comparable to the fascinating great keep at Chepstow in Wales.  At Pietraperzia the tower is much ruined, but the south wall still stands 40' high and has a fine batter to the west.  The structure is rubble built with fine quoining at the corners and stands on a rock cut platform.  The east wall of the structure makes up the enceinte, but a lower ward exists to the south and west which has 2 small round towers in its right angled enceinte.  This work would appear to be a Norman addition to the earlier keep.

Northeast of the keep is the main ward.  This is probably somewhat later than the tower.  It consists of a nearly rectangular polygonal ward and marks the probable original entrance to the fortress.  This was covered by a rhomboid shaped tower to the northeast which projects boldly over the rock face.  Within the ward was a chapel with an ancient nave that was once embellished with frescoes and a painting of the Madonna.  There was also a hall and an armoury.  Much of the masonry of this lower ward is built in well laid rubble with much sandstone intermixed with the limestone.  Here and there are much later ashlar additions.

Northeast of the main ward was a large rectangular building, 65' long and 40' wide.  This building, and the smaller one to the southwest which continues from it, have large windows servicing the 3 storeys that overlooked the cliff face.  Much of this wall to the south collapsed around the turn of the last century, presumably in the earthquake of 1908.  Northeast of the building is a powerful rhomboid tower of 3 storeys.  This seems to have a polygonal stair turret at its eternal north corner as well as a powerful stepped batter.  It somewhat resembles the watchtower at Bamborough in Northumberland.

Why not join me at other Sicilian castles?  Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly Sojourns.


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