The Castle of Lombardia

The shelter on the mountain So named because in the Swabian epoch it was defended by the infantry of Lombard Calabria, the most impressive and ancient Sicilian castle has its roots in an ancient manor that the Sicani, pressed by the approaching Siculi over two millennia ago, built on the highest part of the mountain, on which they founded Enna. Excellent shelter from the invaders, thanks to it Enna was an important Greek polis and strenuously resisted to the Romans. The goddess of the harvest watches over the castle Perched on the eastern tip of Enna, the castle rises up with its 23,000 square metres where the Sicani had once erected the Fortress of Ceres, the famous temple dedicated to the goddess of the harvest. Following the decline of the Roman Empire, the Arabs, around the 10th century, rebuilt the manor and to revitalised it, giving back to Castrogiovanni, the Arabic name of Enna, its peculiar role of Urbs Inexpugnabilis. Peak and inexorable decline After a few centuries, the architect Riccardo da Lentini, on behalf of the Court of the Swabians, renovated the Castle, building 20 beautiful towers to reinforce the impressive walls clenched around the residential halls, where Frederick II of Swabia stayed during summer periods. In those years, the fortification was at the peak of its strategic importance and its reputation as an impregnable Castle spread beyond the borders of Sicily. The advent of the Bourbons, averse to Enna, led Lombardy Castle to a decline, which saw it transformed into prison from which it was impossible to escape. The eagle tower The main atrium of the Manor is St. Nicholas Square, the innermost and therefore the last bastion of salvation in case of invasion: here lie the remains of the royal apartments where the Sicán King and Swabian Emperor lived, the Bishop’s Chapel, a splendid basilica and the Pisan Tower which stands out among the surviving 6 of the 20 Swabian towers of the Citadel as the highest, most beautiful and best preserved. Unlike the others, the Pisan Tower, also called Eagle Tower by the Arabs, since many birds of prey there fluttered around the surrounding valleys, is clearly visible from vast northern territories of the province. A theatre near the stars Today, in the atrium or Piazzale degli Armati is the well-known Teatro più vicino alle Stelle (Theatre closer to the Stars, ndt.), one of the most prestigious opera houses in Italy and which owes its poetic name to the fact that it is at an altitude of almost a thousand metres, and outdoors. Thewestern look-out post   If the castle of Lombardy was the “look-out post” of the eastern sector of the impregnable city at the time, the Tower of Frederick II was the look-out post of the western one, then uninhabited. Together they represent the most impressive military fortress of the Middle Ages. For many centuries they were connected by a scenic rock tunnel beneath the city that popped out on the hill, on which the tower stands.   Unmistakable geometry   Tradition attributes the tower to Riccardo from Lentini. Summer residence of the Swabian Emperor, preferred by the King during his stay on the island, it is the only work that in Sicily is named after him, although for many years the work was attributed to Frederick II of Aragon. One of the arguments in support of the Swabian origin of the monument is the unmistakable geometric system that characterizes the other castles of Frederick II of Swabia, whose Tower of Enna is an admirable example.   Sheltered from the heat   The 27 metre high tower, octagonal in shape, stands atop a wooded hill chosen both for the landscape and for the refreshment that it gave to the kings who came here to spend the summer, while fleeing from the hot capital Palermo.   The strategy of the octagon   There aren’t many Swabian octagonal monuments, deriving from the rotation of a square that represents the compass rose: from the military point of view, in fact, managing to defend an octagonal tower from attacks was a little more difficult than a perfectly cylindrical one. Frederick probably sacrificed the strategic priorities because the function of his tower had to go way beyond mere military purposes: maybe it was also used for astronomical observations and geographical surveys.   A compass rose in the centre of Sicily   Frederick’s Tower has another mysterious aspect, common to many other monuments of ancient and prehistoric age perfectly aligned with the geographical cardinal points and with the major and astronomical seasonal recurrences. Certainly, all this knowledge was welcomed and preserved also by the mainly French architects and master builders, including members of the order of Cistercians, builders of Gothic cathedrals and the castles of Frederick II of Swabia.   A compass near the centre   In addition to the Cistercian hand, in the building of Enna’s tower probably also Arab architects partook, whose sophisticated astronomical and geographical knowledge would allow to establish, with a small margin of error, the centre of the largest island in the Mediterranean.   The spiral staircase full of love   The tower has two large halls, a ground floor and a first floor with vaulted ceilings and typical elements of Norman architecture, such as the pointed arch windows. To connect the two halls there is a spiral staircase of 98 steps carved into the very thick walls of the Tower, which goes up to the top. This staircase has been restored in modern times after having been deliberately demolished in the 18th century. It seems, in fact, that after its abandonment, the Tower became a destination for stealthy love encounters, and church authorities then took such an extreme decision (obviously less onerous than walling in the access).     Sheltered from the bombs   In 1943 the Tower of Frederick was chosen as an ideal retreat by the people of Enna to protect themselves against the Allied bombings.   Sources: