Castello Ursino

Castello Ursino

Castello Ursino History

The Ursino Castle was built on the initiative of Emperor Frederick II as part of his plan for fortifying the Sicilian coast.

Castello Ursino

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 precision.

Clearly, however, it stood on a promontory about 16 meters 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 center 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.

Castello Ursino lateral

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 northeast 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.

Castello Ursino courtyard

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 Location

Castello Ursino Address: Piazza Federico II di Svevia, 1, 95121 Catania, Italy. Get help with directions using the map provided below:

Ursino Castle Map

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