The system of fortifications from land to sea

Castello Maniace

On the extreme tip of the island of Ortygia, you can see the mighty bulk of the Castello Maniace, considered the most important building among the monuments from the Suevian period.
vista Castello Maniace dal mareOn the castle’s site, there are signs of previous fortifications from Greek times, it being a strategically important area for the city’s defence. Its name comes from Giorgio Maniace, the Byzantine general who conquered the city in 1038, taking it from the Muslims.
The Frederician castle, built between 1232 and 1240, is a mixture of very distant cultural influences.
Frederick II of  Swabia was in fact born and raised among the splendours of the multi-ethnic kingdom founded by his maternal grandfather Roger II, developing a culture dedicated to travel, scientific study and art.
Of the grandiose Frederician project, however, only the lower part was completed.
Access to the castle is granted through a gate with an a pointed arch of considerable size, enriched with marble of various qualities.

Two thin lateral columns set on small bases support chaliceshaped capitals with hooked leaves.
particolare portale Castello ManiaceAbove the capitals, four zoomorphic figures dominate the corbels, now very incomplete: they were probably winged lions or hippogriffs. A mighty perimeter wall with its circular towers, which incited fear and respect in those arriving from sea or land, is contrasted by an extraordinary and elegant interior space, similar to a royal residence.
A large square central hall strikes the eye thanks to the succession of free-standing limestone columns culminating in richly decorated capitals, from which the ribs that outline the splendid cross vaults depart.
Interno Castello ManiaceThe geometric design created by the column arrangement appears almost like a chessboard, whose geometric centre is accentuated by four groups of columns made, instead of limestone, from marble and granite, of which only two remain.
In the corners of the room, there were four gigantic hearths, probably also used for cooking food. In the walls adjacent to the hearths there are four doors leading to the unfinished corner towers.

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Castello Maniace