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:: Maniace castle (Syracuse)

Maniace Castle is an absolute must for anyone interested in military constructions. It stands on the tip of the island of Ortygia, where it was built in the first half of the 13th cent. by Frederick II's trusty architect, Richard of Lentini, who also designed Ursino Castle in Catania. Built of sandstone, it owes its name to the Byzantine general who in 1038 defended Ortygia from the Arabs. Although it was badly damaged by the earthquake that devastated south-east Sicily in 1693, giving rise to numerous reconstructions in baroque style, it still conserves its characteristic 13th-cent. structure - square, with four cylindrical towers at the sides. The castle is reached by way of a stone bridge.

The imposing main door, with its pointed arch of Islamic inspiration, is truly breathtaking - it is covered in polychrome marble and surmounted by the imperial coat of arms of Charles V, with niches on either side that used to contain two bronze rams of the Hellenistic age - while the interior offers a rich selection of architectural items of exceptional beauty and technical perfection.

The inner structure presents a single hall covered by twenty-five cross-spans supported by slender columns, with a monumental fireplace in each of the four corners. In the 16th cent. it was surrounded by a ring of bastions.

Today, thanks to restoration and consolidation work on the entire belt of fortifications, it is possible to visit exhibitions and enjoy cultural events in the evocative scenario of the Piazzale d'Armi (Parade Ground).

Details of the Maniace castle (Syracuse)

(click on the photos to enlarge)

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