The Mussomeli Castle

The Castle of Mussomeli, an imposing and austere symbol of feudal Sicily

Perched on a hill, Mussomeli is located in the province of Caltanissetta. Panoramically situated, its houses seem to lie on top of each other so to leave room only for very narrow paved alleys. At the back of the village is an imposing crag, the Manfredonico Chiaramontano Castle, one of the most fascinating in Sicily (that is worth all the distance necessary to reach it). With its irregular mass, the castle dominates the surrounding valley in the evocative and scenic mainland of Sicily, on the road that from Palermo leads to Agrigento. A symbol of the authority of feudal lords, as well as a magnificent work of architecture, the castle was built both for military and for residential purposes in 1364 by Manfredi II of Chiaramonte. It lies about 2 km away from the village and is built over different altitudes, the highest of which is 780 metres. The structure seems to merge with the solitary limestone crag that rises in the countryside of Caltanissetta, a province disseminated with castles. The fortress is enclosed by an irregular surrounding wall that takes advantage of every point of support offered by its rocky sides. This way the man-built part of the castle merges with its nature-built side. It has a sturdy look for the good quality mortar used and the stone taken from the same rock, the abundant use of piers (a supporting vertical architectural element) in strings and in the corners that made it resistant to the elements of over six centuries. The castle facade appears well-decorated with merlons, mullioned windows, two cylindrical towers, decorated portal and windows, and is one of the best examples of Gothic art. The visit to the castle interiors, accessible through an ogival arched doorway, is also breathtaking. The halls with high cross vaults also deserve a visit, as well as the Barons Hall, which diplays precious portals in pure “chiaramontano” style and two mulllioned windows, and the “Prison of Death” where convicts were lowered down through a trapdoor and killed by drowning. One more place to visit is the chapel where the statue of the “Madonna of the chain” is kept, to whom the inmates directed their prayers for pardon. Lastly, the distinctive feature in the construction of the castle of Mussomeli is that it offers triangular spaces inside that funtion as connecting spaces between the halls of each side of the polygon and the subsequent set of stairs. Apart from its castle, Mussomeli houses a number of archaeological treasures dating back to prehistoric, Roman, Muslim and Bysantine times. Mussomeli is also a village of churches and alleys, and whoever comes here should absolutely visit its numerous churches from the fifteenth and sixteenth century.

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