Si Trova: a Catania
Lat: 37° 29' 56.71832" N - Long: 15° 5' 5.221438" E
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The Ursino Castle is a fine example of swabian architecture in Sicily.
It was built with the guidance of the architect Riccardo da Lentini, probably on a design by the emperor Frederick II himself; he had thought the manor inside a more complex coastal defensive system of eastern Sicily, which also includes the castle of Augusta and the Maniace castle in Syracuse.
The castle was built on a rock promontory on the sea, connected with an isthmus to the town and the town's walls; it was also equipped with an imposing moat and a drawbridge.
Based on its position, the name "Ursino" derived from "Cartrum Sinus", meaning "Castle of the Gulf".
In 1282 were lived inside the castle some of the most important moments of the Vespers war.
It was later home to the Aragonese court and hosted all the kings of Sicily, from Frederick III and all his descendants until 1415, with the Queen Bianca of Navarre.
In 1416, the last acts of political life that saw Catania as the capital town of the kingdom took place in the Parliament hall.
In the 16th century, a bastion called San Giorgio was built near the castle and some modifications were made in the Renaissance style, but the castle saw its military role weakened, temporarily becoming the residence of a viceroy, while a part of it was used as a prison.
In 1669 the eruption of Etna that struck Catania also reached the Castle; the lava filled the moat, broke the shackles of the drawbridge, covered the ramparts, and even shifted the coastline to a few hundred meters, so that the castle visually lost about half of its height, and lost the proximity of the sea.
Renovated after the earthquake of 1693, it continued to host military garrisons; however it remained a prison until 1838, when the Bourbon government restored it and added new factories that concealed the original swabian structure.
In 1932 the Castle was acquired by the Municipality and subjected to a new and radical restoration in view of its transformation into a Museum.
The Ursino Castle is square; its four corners are equipped with circular towers and two median towers have survived, in which elegant spiral staircases stood.
The walls are made of lava stone.
The bases of the escarpments are visible in the moat on the south side.
The northern side is the best preserved; here the entrance to the castle was defended by the drawbridge and defensive walls whose remains are still visible in the moat opposite the entrance.
Also on this side there is a niche with a sculpture depicting a Swabian eagle that grabs a hare symbol of Frederick II's power.
On the south side a secondary door led to the landing stage.
On the east side there is a beautiful Renaissance window with a pentalpha black lava stone.
Inside it developed the court and there remains a beautiful courtyard with external staircase in Gothic-Catalan style built in the Renaissance age.
Still inside and in the courtyard are visible some interesting graffiti left by the prisoners in the past centuries.
Since 1934 the Ursino Castle has housed the Civic Museum.
The ground floor, the courtyard and some rooms on the first floor can currently be visited.
The castle is open from Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm and from 2:15 pm to 7:00 pm (last ticket sale at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm); Sunday from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm (last ticket sale at 1:00 pm); For contacts tel 095345830 - fax 0957233568.
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