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The Castle

The Rams of the Byzantines in tribute to the Swabians The castle of Frederick II in Syracuse, then said Maniace, was built between 1232 and 1240. Maniace Castle’s name derives from Giorgio Maniace, Byzantine General who in 1038 briefly reconquered the city from the Arabs and brought two Hellenistic bronze Rams as gift, then placed at the entrance of the Swabian Castle, which has improperly retained the name of the leader.     


Frederick and the Arab masters The first documents on its foundation are the letters that Frederick sends on November 17, 1239 from Lodi to his subjects linked to the construction of the Castle, in which the Emperor welcomes the diligence with which Riccardo from Lentini prepositus aedificiorum follows the castrum nostrum Syracusie and reassures him that his request pro munitionecastroum nostrorum Syracusie et Lentiní quam etiam pro Serracenis et servis nostris necessarium frumentum, ordeum, vinum, caseum, companagium, scarpaset indumenta was passed onto the Messina Treasurer, who will soon supply him of everything he needs. Worth of notice is how the Emperor uses the terms Serracenis and servis nostris, referring to the workers on the construction site: the Saracens, “specialist technicians”, were regularly employed, while servants weren’t. In 1240, when the castra exempta fall under the imperial jurisdiction, the Castle of Syracuse is counted among them. The names of two Swabian castellans ofSyracuse are known: Riccardo Vetrani and the very loyal Giovanni Piedilepre, mentioned by a diploma of Manfredi of 13th August l263. The Rams for Giovanni Ventimiglia Under the Angevins the Castle becomes royal heritage, listed in 1273 by a commission of inquiry which mentions a Castrum Siragusie. The war between the Angevins and the Aragonese for the control of the reign sees the Castle defending the city. For most of the 15th century the castle was a prison. In 1448, after a splendid banquet held in the halls of the Castle, Captain Giovanni Ventimiglia kills all the guests, accusing them of treason. For this brave act he gets as a gift by King Alfonso of Castile the two bronze Rams that have adorned since that day the front of the Castle. Victim and executioner, the explosion changes the nature of the castle At the end of the 16th century, in the more general fortification plan of the city, Maniace Castle becomes a focal point for the walls, designed by the Spanish military engineer Ferramolino. In the mid 17th century further fortified works include works in the Castle, of unknown size. On November 5th, 1704, a furious explosion occurred in the powder keg devastated the building. Shreds of groin vaults and limestone blocks are launched within a radius of several kilometres. In the following years the reconstruction is prepared, which leaves intact the parts damaged by the explosion, while creating claddings for the building of warehouses. In the Napoleonic age the Castle revives with military functions and is equipped with cannon ports. In 1838, to safeguard the uprisings throughout the Kingdom, the Bourbons of Ferdinand VI build a pillbox. The castle is handed over to the Kingdom of Savoy and used until World War II as military equipment storage. Numbers and magic The function of the Maniace Castle was that of being seen from afar: first bastion of the town wall, visible to foreign sailors with whom Syracuse came into contact, visible to enemies who intended to attack the city, visible from every point to the citizens themselves, in memory of the rebellion of 1232 bloodily put down and of the strength that could be used to suppress any other. The first consideration must be made with reference to the geometrical structure of the plan and in particular to the combinations of squares and circles adopted for the first time by the Swabian architecture with mathematical precision. The square, the number 4, in the Middle Ages was the number of the Earth, of the Church revealed through the four theological virtues; for the Orientals four were the forms of the deity; for the Greeks the famous four primordial elements fell under the pre- Socratic school. The circle is the symbol of perfection that starts and ends in itself, for the Orientals it is the sun and life, among the Greeks it is the cosmos. In Syracuse the number 5 and 4 have been persistently used; but 5 is nothing but the sum of 2 plus 3, two primes of Leonardo Fibonacci’s series. It is the series of numbers that gives order to the universe and the applied arts, and Frederick himself had several contacts with Fibonacci. The planets, symbols of power In the plan of Maniace castle, reading the numbers as symbols, the square represents the Earth and the circle represents the Sun. The duo’s theory was proposed with particular vehemence by Innocent III, protector of Frederick: the Pope, descending from God, represents the Sun which makes the Moon, the Emperor, shine of its reflected light. It is clear, however, that the will of Frederick II was to impersonate the Sun rather than the Moon. Frederick II was often pictured by the Crown symbol as the Sun’s rays. This important Swabian construction is a further affirmation of the temporal power of Frederick II on the both spiritual and temporal Church power. Fortified mosque? The problem of Maniace’s plan has led some scholars to believe it one of the rarest examples of Italian fortified mosque, comforted by the fact that in the underground springs a freshwater spring -that would have been used for ablutions required of Muslims – But the hypothesis of the desire to build a Muslim mosque in Syracuse is not acceptable, both for the absence of documentary evidence and of a viable political motivation. Moreover, in the Castle you can find, on a shelf, the clear symbols of the Staufer eagle. The eagle is the Latin-Germanic symbol in which the priestly power, the legal wisdom and the warrior valor expressed in the aggressiveness are blended. SOURCE: Copyright  ©2002 Carla Delfino

2013 - Federico Itinerari dello S



Strong and combative from the beginning According to tradition the name of Syracuse stems from the Syraka swamp; the first settlements date back to the period of Greek colonization in the 8th century BC. It’s amazing to watch the wide-ranging expansive project carried out by the new city already in the first few years of its existence; at the end of the 8th century the first sub-colony, Eloro, was founded. Syracuse was governed by an oligarchic regime: the descendants of the first settlers, called Geomori, ruled; subject to them were the Killirioi; the city had, from the very start, a regular urban plan, divided “per strigas”, i.e. with regular orthogonals mesh. The first infightings The economic wealth reached in a short time by the city gave rise to infightings between the two factions, ended with the expulsion of the Geomori and the seizure of power by the Killirioi. Meanwhile, during the 6th century, two other neighborhoods were born: Tyche and Neapoli. The Geomori gave an opportunity to Gelone, Commander of the Cavalry of Hippocrates, to enter the city in 484 BC and to restore the oligarchy. Syracuse with Gelone began a phase of great artistic splendour; after his death, his brother Hiero came to power and, after him, Transibulo. Attempts at conquest by foreigners, the end of civilization Athens started worrying about the rapid expansion of Syracuse and it went against it in 415 BC. The clash resulted in 413 BC with the defeat of the besiegers. In 278 BC the Carthaginians took the city that was liberated by Pyrrhus; after leaving the city and moving to Rome, the power was assumed by Hiero, whose wise policy of equidistance from Rome left the city in a long period of peace and prosperity. But his successor, Hieronymus, broke the pacts and Syracuse was taken by Rome in 212 BC. Thus a long and continuous period of decline began. In the 5th century Sicily was land of conquest by the Vandals and Ostrogoths and in 827 the Arabs landed at Mazara and immediately began marching towards Siracusa, which capitulated in 878. Maniace, the man coming from afar The infighting among the caliphates induced to ask the intervention of the Byzantine General Giorgio Maniace, who is known to history both for the probable fortress building on the tip of Ortygia and for having stolen the mortal remains of St. Lucia and having taken them to Byzantium. Syracuse was again in the grip of the Arabs, who held it until 1093, when the Altavillas restored the Christian faith in the Kingdom. The Kings of Sicily On the Christmas eve of 1139 Ruggero II was crowned King of Sicily in Palermo Cathedral; when Henry VI died, husband of Constance of Altavilla, a period of anarchy followed that caught first the Pisans and then the Genoese. With the rise of Frederick II of Swabia Syracuse was re-annexed to the Imperial state property, on his death the Pope opposed to Manfredi Charles of Anjou, crowned in 1266. The Vesper war drove the French away and the Sicilians turned to Pietro of Aragon, proclaiming him King of Sicily in 1295. A dark age Without major events or joys, Syracuse gets to 1837, when the city was shocked by a severe plague, which was followed by the rebellions against the Bourbon government. Ferdinand then moved his seat to Noto, but with the unification of Italy Syracuse regained its title in 1865. With the unification of Italy and the advent of liberal-bourgeois politicians a wide program of public works began, favoured by the suppression of the monastic orders and the acquisition of their property by the State.


Accommodation & Restaurants

Des Etrangers et Miramare – Passeggio Adorno 10/12 – Ortigia – 96100
Stelle: *****
Disponibilità: 80
Zona: Siracusa – Ortigia
Grand Hotel Villa Politi – Via Maria Politi Laudien 2 – 96100
Stelle: ****
Disponibilità: 100
Zona: Siracusa – Parco Archeologico
Jolly – Corso Gelone 45 – 96100
Stelle: ****
Disponibilità: 97
Zona: Siracusa – Parco Archeologico
Albatros – Via Elorina 168 – 96100
Stelle: ****
Disponibilità: 18
Zona: Siracusa – Costa siciliana orientale
Stelle: ****
Disponibilità: 136
Zona: Siracusa
Panorama Hotel – Via Necropoli Grotticalle, 33 – 96100
Zona: Siracusa
Jolly Hotel Siracusa – Corso Gelone 45 – 96100
Zona: Siracusa
Hotel Roma – Via Roma , 66 – 96100
Zona: Siracusa
Lady Lusya – Strada Spinagallo 16 – 96100
Zona: Siracusa – Costa siciliana orientale
La Rosa sul Mare – Via dei Diamanti 12 – 96100
Zona: Siracusa – Costa siciliana orientale
Rist. Archimede ** Via Gemellaro, 8 0931.69701
Rist. Don Camillo ** Via Maestranza, 92-100 0931.67133
Pub Il Sale Siracusa – Via Dell’ Amalfitana, 56/2 339 1577381
Giuliano Marzio Pub Siracusa – Piazza S. Giuseppe, 1 0931 22040
Irish Pub Ulysses Siracusa – Vicolo Forte Vigliena, 3/15 0931 465615