A Castelluccio on the spur On a rocky spur overlooking the plains near the River Gela the ancient Castelluccio fortress rises, which also hosted Frederick II. The wide walls are lined with crenels and windows: the crenels tell us of its initial defensive function, while the elegant windows, one of which has a beautiful bow, tell the subsequent use as royal residence. At the edge of the monastery The construction of the “Castelluccio” in defence of the town dates back to the second half of the 12th century. The oldest mention of Castelluccio dates back to 1143 when count Simone of Butera donated some land to the Abbot of the monastery of San Nicolò L’Arena di Catania probably as penance for some sins: the Castelluccio is mentioned as ultimate border at the eastern end of the assets assigned to the monastery. Greek stone in the walls of the medieval castle Built by reusing in part some large blocks of white limestone and yellow calcarenite of the Greek Caposoprano wall, the building has a formal rigor, stripped of any decorative indulgence that enhances its practical functionality. Easily reached along the road that from Gela leads to Catania, the fort is rectangular-shaped with thick walls and two mighty towers located on the sides: the western tower still has the remains of a cistern and a still partly visible room, while in the eastern tower you can see a chapel carved into the wall. A history of abandonment and wounds Repeatedly abandoned, in the 16th century it underwent extension works abruptly interrupted by an earthquake, which drew on the castle a deep and irreparable crack. In 1943 the Allied bombing caused widespread damage to the entire building.
An ancient history in many names It is one of the oldest cities in Sicily and is located to the right of the river mouth of the same name. Gela is not the only name by which the city was known in history. At the time of the Romans and the Arabs it was also known as the “City of columns” but for Frederick II it was Terranova (new land, ndt.), a name (kept until 1927) suggesting the existence of a “Terravecchia” (old land, ndt.) next to new settlement; it was the year 1233 when the Swabian Emperor decided to found on the site of the Greek Gela a new walled city, with a castle and a port, in order to better control the southern coast and take advantage of the vast agricultural plains. From huts to Hellenic temples Built largely with the ruins of the Greek city, Gela preserves testimonies of its ancient history dating back to the Neolithic age, when the territory was inhabited by Mediterranean peoples who lived in huts made of wood, straw and mud. In 689 BC, Gela was founded by the Rhodian-Cretan colonists and soon the territory was enriched by dwellings and temples dedicated to the Greek gods. A convention for peace Thanks to the work of his tyrants, quickly Gela established itself as guide for the unity of all Greek peoples of Sicily and lived a long period of prosperity and abundance of which also Roma benefit, which was hit by drought and famine and experienced its generosity. In 424 BC, the city was chosen as the venue of the first convention of Sicily, the peace conference convened toavert the danger of the Athenians. After defeating also the Punic army and the Carthaginians, Gela went back to being prosperous and flourished in the arts and sciences until the Carthaginians won and the city was destroyed. The Terranova of Federico II The ancient splendour of Hellenic Gela must not have been unknown to Frederick II who decided to rebuild it on the eastern part of the Hill, discarding the possibility of reusing the old site in the western part, easy prey of Saracen raids. The inhabitants, a little at a time, moved into the new town and surrounded it with walls still testifying of that era. Frederick’s city, incorporated in the western expansion of 1583, looks from above like an irregular rectangle with two orthogonal axes (the Promenade and Bresmes Street) in whose meeting point the airy Duomo square opens. From the arrival of the Angevins to the Anglo-American landing After the death of Frederick II Terranova declared itself “autonomous” and placed itself under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Seat. Later, it passed on to the Angevins. Enfeoffed during the 16th century, however, it retained the prerogatives of State city and had alternate vicissitudes until the twentieth century, the century in which, besides resuming the ancient and glorious Greek toponym, was the spotlight for the first Anglo-American allied landings (1943) and the discovery of oil (1956).
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