The Castello Aragonese is an ancient fortification located in the homonymous Piazza Castello, in Reggio Calabria. Together with the Riace Bronzes, it is considered one of the main historical symbols of the city.
Under Emperor Justinian I, during the war between the Goths and the Byzantines, Belisarius entered Reggio to free it from the barbarians and found the city devoid of fortifications, so the general immediately ordered the restoration of the city walls. As a consequence, a castle was built around the 6th century.
In 1059, the fortress passed from the Byzantines to the Normans, and in 1266 to Charles I of Anjou. Since the Normans, who established the court there, the castle was modified and enlarged several times.
A substantial part of the work took place during the reign of Frederick II of Swabia, when the imperial authority built a state defense system for the Kingdom of Sicily. The Swabian part of the castle, a building with a square plan, with four corner towers, also of square shape, remained standing until after the earthquake of 1908.
The castle was restored in 1327, after the repeated wars between the Angevins and the Aragonese, then fortified in 1381 by Queen Giovanna I. In 1382, Carlo, Duke of Durazzo, ordered the governor of Reggio to restore the castle.
In 1458, Ferdinand I, the King of Naples, had the most substantial changes made under the direction of the architect Baccio Pontelli: two large towers were added to the south, a ravelin to the east, and a moat was dug.
In 1539, Pietro da Toledo increased the internal capacity of the castle, to be able to shelter almost 1000 people.
During the Risorgimento (Italian unification), the Aragonese castle became a political prison and a place for the rebels’ execution.
In 1860, the city and the castle were conquered by Giuseppe Garibaldi. After the unification of Italy, with a new town plan, the fortress was considered unfit and its demolition was proposed. In 1892, the provincial commission of archaeological assets decreed a partial demolition of the castle and, five years later, the castle was declared a national monument.
After escaping the 1908 earthquake, the fortress was partly demolished according to the indications of the new town plan drafted by Pietro De Nava, on the advice of the administration of the city. The 9/10 of its structure were then demolished, but the most significant part of the bastion was retained – the one with the two Aragonese towers, which still stand majestically in the center of the square.
After the Second World War, until 1986, the Aragonese castle was the seat of the National Institute of Geophysics, with a seismic and meteorological center. On May 7, 1986, due to inadequate restoration works, a part of the castle collapsed on the northwest slope.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Aragonese Castle is about 900 meters away from the Reggio Calabria Stazione Centrale and about 250 meters from the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. If you need a map, use the one below.