San Marco d'Alunzio

This was the first Norman castle to be built in Sicily.  It was founded by the troops of Robert Guiscard (d.1085) in the autumn of 1061 who chose to remain when Robert decided to return to the mainland after his first invasion of Sicily.  It is said to have been built on the site of a pre-existing fortress and in 1083 revolted to Jordan Hauteville, the illegitmate son of 
Count Roger Hauteville (d.1101).  From 1090 to 1112 it was the home of Adelasia, the third wife of Count Roger Hauteville (d.1101) and mother and regent of King Roger II (d.1154).  It was later, like Carini, a prison for the conspirators against Chancellor Stephen Perche (d.1169).  It was still garrisoned in May 1272 for the Angevins.  After the Sicilian Vespers of March 1282 it passed back to royal control and was presumably given by King Frederick III (d.1337) to his bastard son, Sanc Aragon, who held it until his death in the late 1320s.

The castle is built on the top of Mount Rotondo and consists of a large enclosure containing remains of the great hall.  The original enclosure was probably about 150' square, but its south and west portions have been built over.  It is best preserved to the north where a 100' long wall marked the north side of the enceinte and the great hall.  The remaining structure was of 2 floors.  The low undercroft had 6 Romanesque embrasures to the north, although their lights are now gone.  Above a series of joist holes was the much taller main floor which had 4 great pointed embrasures, 2 now contain reconstructed large twin light windows.  Obviously this was the main hall.  Parts of the east wall remain and contains what may be an entrance.  To the northwest the curtain runs diagonally off the hall end and disappears into modern buildings.  This stretch contains a possible entrance and a blocked Romanesque embrasure.  Other fragments of walling can be made out built into the newer houses on the site.

The wall, built on bedrock, consists of rubble interlaid with Roman tiles and bricks.  As such its construction looks more ‘Byzantine' than Norman, although it does not fit into the Byzantine 'batleship' shaped castle like those discussed under Aci castle.  At the external ends of the hall, as well as at a low level, there are reused great ashlar blocks which could well have come from a Hellenistic site.  The remains have recently been restored and now bound a car park making a town square.  The site as it stands looks more Byzantine and later residential than Norman.  Presumably then the Norman work consisted of rebuilding the older ruins.  Such would make sense for a small force remaining in a hostile territory.

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


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