Pollina is first recorded in 1081 when it was a hamlet within the diocese of Troina, while in 1131 it was placed within the bishopric of Cefalu.  Six years later in 1137 the land of Pollae was recorded as being held by Roberto Montescaglioso.  Presumably this Robert was the brother-in-law of Emily Macabeo (d.1119/24), the widow of Count Ralph Macabeo of Montescaglioso (d.1108/15) and half sister of King Roger (d.1155).  The foundation of the diocese of Cefalu in 1131 caused many problems concerning the boundaries of the new see and in 1159 Pollina was repeatedly mentioned when an attempt was made to clearly define the boundaries between the bishopric of Patti-Lipari and Cefalu.  Finally in 1171, Pope Alexander III definitively granted the hamlet of Polla/Pollenam to Cefalu.

Robert Montescaglioso, the grandson of the Robert presumably holding the castle in 1137, died before 1167 and presumably the castle reverted to the Crown.  Over 30 years later Pope Innocent III, as guardian for Frederick II (d.1250), gave to the church of Cefalu‘the castle of Pollina with the tenements and appurtenances of the same'.  Over 100 years later on 5 September 1321 Count Francesco Ventimiglia of Geraci (d.1338), exchanged the hamlet and presumably the castle with Bishop Giacomo Narneja of Cefalu for the fees of Ferminino and Veneruso.  The reason for the exchange was that the bishop could no longer afford the upkeep of the site, the repair of the stone walls were too much for his finances even though the income from the lordship was ‘perhaps 30 or 40 gold ounces or even more'.  As late as 1558 Pollina was regarded as a fortified centre in the hinterland of Palermo.

The castle lies at the highest point of the town on a rocky triangular crag some 2,500' above sea level.  The site is much disturbed by a modern amphitheatre and other works.  The rhomboid tower, interpreted as a keep, is about 28' square and some 45' high.  Entered from the west it is windowless in its lower vaulted floor, but the upper 2 storeys have lights to the north, south and east.  The west wall has largely collapsed, but the whole tower has had a thorough recent overhaul.  The repaired windows are all Romanesque, but it is uncertain that this is their medieval form.  The keep seems to have been the southeast corner tower of a small polygonal enclosure about 100' east to west and 65' north to south.  Little remains of this but fragments of the north wall built on and below the cliff with traces of projecting towers.  To the east of the keep was a curtain cutting off the town and making a long, some 200' north to south, but narrow, some 50' east to west, outer ward.  This battlemented ward has been much rebuilt, but seems to have an original gateway to the northeast, leading down into the town.  The wallwalk above this, with 2 surviving merlons, may just be original, although they have been heavily restored.

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


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