Castello Ursino Description
The Ursino Castle was built on the
initiative of Emperor Frederick II as part of his plan for fortifying the Sicilian
In 1669 an eruption of Mount Etna changed the topography of the
surrounding area, so it is difficult to establish the castle’s original setting with
Clearly, however, it stood on a promontory about 16 meter high,
dominating the city and the port, and was protected by outworks on the side facing inland and
by the cliff over the sea.
Castello Ursino has a square plan with
cylindrical corner towers and four semi-cylindrical turrets at the centre of each side, of
which only two survived. The substructures are powerful, consisting of foundations 12 m deep
and a sloping escarpment 3 m high.
The total height of the building is 24 m. Each of the ranges
surrounding the square inner court has a middle room of three rib-vaulted bays flanked by
square end rooms that lead into the corner towers. These are octagonal on the interior; traces
of the original water system remain in the thickness of the walls.
Only the north side is fully intact, containing the entrance with a
pointed arch between the middle tower and the north-east one. The walls are faced with volcanic
ashlar blocks, but the window mounts are limestone.
The other sides have been greatly altered, only the main walls
surviving from Frederick’s time. On the west side the two large, double-embrasured windows are
original; on the south is an arch that is traditionally thought to be the remains of the chapel
of S Giorgio and a 16th-century portal.
Access to the upper floor of theUrsino
Castle is by spiral stairways in the thickness of the walls of
the middle turrets. All that survives from Frederick’s time are the rooms on the north side,
corresponding to those below. The towers have octopartite rib vaults, springing from pyramidal
corbels or from the capitals of the small corner columns.
The sober decorative elements are mainly limited to the crocket capitals,
which can be compared with contemporary Sicilian work in the Castel Maniace, Syracuse. The
symmetry of the plan is reminiscent of Frederick II’s Castel del Monte in Apulia, the only one
of his mainland castles whose plan was not conditioned by the land but rather based on an
organic geometrical scheme.
Castello Ursino has a unique character; it is a
Mediterranean synthesis of Frederick II’s Sicilian fortresses.
Castello Ursino Visitor info
Castello Ursino is situated in Catania, Sicily. The
building houses a gallery of local art as well as the Catania Civic
Museum, which is well worth visiting.
Ursino Castle Map&Location
Castello Ursino Address: Piazza Federico II di Svevia, 1, 95121 Catania,
Italy. Get help with directions using the map provided bellow:
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