The Castle

An ancient and strategic site It was the 1221 when Frederick II visited for the first time the hill on top of which his castle would be built. An ancient site in which traces from different eras are still visible, from the Neolithic huts to the ruins of the Roman Acropolis, up to the ruins of a Church; a strategic location, isolated and centrally located between the Gargano, the Tavoliere, and the Daunia Sub-Apennine. The northern outpost The puer Apuliae became convinced of the need to build a fortress there, which would become the northern outpost of the Swabian castle system in Apulia. However, several years passed before his plan could be accomplished: we must wait the 1233, when Frederick, returning from a crusade, found the time and money required to start work. The old palatium Placed on top of a hill, of the Frederician Palatium with pyramidal base only fragments remain, buried in the North-East. The castle was built around a central square courtyard which, at the third floor level, was instead of octagonal shape. The four residential wings, which constituted the main body of the complex, amounted to three floors. Some lateral towers completed the building, which had no ground floor entrances probably replaced by a system of external escalators. Smoke, fire and flag signals Once a luxurious imperial residence and menacing fortified building, the castle of Lucera was inserted into the important visual communication network set up between one castle and the other to guard the Apulian coasts: by day it availed itself of codified smoke signals and of flag-wavers, while in the darkness of the night fire signals were launched. Oriental ostentation The emperor wanted to give great artistic splendour to his palatium furnishing the thirty-two rooms with refinement and ostentation: gold, silver, precious stones but also many statues imported from the East made the castle of Lucera the most similar to an oriental palace. Saracen maidens And, like a highly respectable oriental palace, the palatium had his Muslim staff and most importantly a pavilion where many Saracen girls lived, which the gossips and the Pope himself associate to a harem. The harem and zoo entourage The Saracens, along with many animals owned by Frederick II – eagles, barn owls, dogs, hawks, owls, bears, peacocks, buzzards, India’s white aras, rare Syrian  doves,  African ostrich, lions, leopards, lynxes, panthers, monkeys, an elephant and a giraffe – followed him in his constant transfers showing everywhere his magnificence. The Emperor’s clothes When not travelling with him, the Saracen girls were busy in yarn spinning works, preparing for their Lord court and war robes and gualdrappas for his animals. Treasures and fairs The castle of Lucera at the times of the Swabian played also an important economic role: it kept a part of the State Treasury, in the fenced area it hosted a building for one of the Imperial mints and around it one of the most important fairs of the Kingdom took place annually. The House of Science According to an Arab source, Frederick II had undertaken the building of a House of Science inside, the “Dar al-’ ilm”, a sort of cultural foundation open to the scholars of the time. The lioness and the lion of the Angevin citadel With the Angevins the fortress was transformed into a full-fledged autonomous military citadel, becoming a repository of various weapons; the 900 metres-long walls were built, reinforced by 22 towers and made inaccessible by a deep moat at whose ends are the Tower of the Lioness and the Tower of the Lion.

The abandonment Damaged by an earthquake in the 15th century, the Frederician palace was used in the 18th century as a quarry for the construction of the courthouse. Ruined by time and neglect, plundered for centuries to turn it into building material, little remains of the splendour of yesteryear, when the Swabian came here to find peace and serenity and to compose poetry. Sources: “La via dei canti” by Angelo Lucano Larotonda


The History

A sacred wood contended by everyone City of ancient origins – whose name might derive from the Etruscan luk-eri meaning “sacred wood” – Lucera is mentioned in the writings of Aristotle, Cicero, Caesar and others. Inhabited since the dawn of history, the most memorable period of the ancient city of the Dauni is certainly one in which the city tied to the Swabian house. Before then Lucera had been dominated by the Lombards, then conquered by the French, and then passed onto the Normans who had greatly enriched it.

The Saracens’ experiment In 1224 Frederick II chose IT for a major ethnic experiment required by political-military needs: after conducting a bloody “police operation” to eradicate the Saracens from Sicily, the Emperor deported the survivors to Apulia. The experiment succeeded because the Saracens in Lucera – 5-6,000 in a population of 35/40,000 – ceased to conduct guerrilla warfare actions and resumed to practise their professions, confirming themselves as expert farmers and ranchers. The mosque of bodyguards From being enemies, the Saracens turned into devout admirers of Frederick II, who allowed them to build a mosque and used numerous rulings in their favor. Their new loyalty and reputation as skilled archers and superb horsemen led the emperor to recruit them in his bodyguards, creating special troops. The Caliphate of Cordoba The “Luceria saracenorum” must not have been different from any other Muslim city with mosques, stores, and the typical districts of the casbah. It was during this period of cultural and craftsmanship splendour that the city was compared to the Caliphate of Cordoba.

The city of Santa Maria against the infidels After the death of Frederick the Muslim Lucera remained loyal to the Swabian house, but in 1269 the Anjous besieged it  and conducted a full-fledged ethnic cleansing by killing the “infidel” Muslims: on the ruins of the mosque, in commemoration of the victory, they erected the cathedral and its name was changed to “City of Santa Maria”. The key of Apulia Afterwards, Lucera was again the scene of fierce battles between the French and Spaniards and also fell under the Bourbon domination, keeping until the advent of Napoleon the role of capital of Capitanata and the County of Molise. After the decline in the 19th century, the city experienced a rebirth of industry, livestock and crops between ‘ 800 and ‘ 900. Currently Lucera has the title of Art City and, given its strategic location, it retains the name of “Key of Apulia”. Source:


Accommodation & Restaurants

ACCOMMODATION HOTEL SORRISO VIALE RAFFAELLO C/O CENTRO COMMERCIALE INCOM Tel. 0881.540306 Fax 0881.530565 HOTEL LA BALCONATA 2 VIALE FERROVIA, 15 Tel. 088.1520998 Fax 088.1546725 HOTEL AL PASSETTO VIA RAMPA ALLE MURA 1 Tel. 0881.520998 Fax 0881.546725 FARM HOLIDAYS MASSERIA SANT’AGAPITO C.DA S.CATERINA DI RIPATETTA SN T el. 0881.547827 Fax 0881.547827 Agriturismo PETRILLI PAOLO AZ.AGRITUR. LOC.MOTTACARAPRESA Tel. 0881.523980 Agriturismo POSTA DI TORREBIANCA di Lepri Luigi MASSERIA TORREBIANCA Tel. 0881.542910 Fax 0881.542910 B&B ALLA PIAZZETTA DEL CONVITTO B.&. B PIAZZA BONGHI N.2 INT.1 Tel. 0881.540317 Bed and Breakfast e altri LE FOGLIE DI ACANTO B.& B. VAI FRATTAROLO 3 Tel. 0881.546691 Bed and Breakfast e altri MIMOSA B.& B. VIA DEI NICASTRI 36/38/40 Tel. 0881.546066 Bed and Breakfast e altri IL CROGIUOLO DI COLUCCI ANGELICA B.& B. CONTRADA S.CATERINA DI RIPATETTA Tel. 333.4495798 Fax 0881.549611 Bed and Breakfast e altri B&b “GRADISCA” Via Spagnoletti Zeuli, 69 Cell. 333.2960465; Bed and Breakfast e altri B&b “PALATIUM” Via Porta Foggia, 5 – 0881.525434.