Castello Ursino is an interesting castle in Catania, former seat of the Sicilian parliament starting with the 13th century and residence of the Aragonese sovereigns until the 15th century. Since 20 October 1934, the castle is home to the Civic Museum.
The Ursino Castle was built in the 13th century by Frederick II of Swabia, King of Sicily and Holy Roman Emperor, as part of the defensive system of the eastern Sicily, which also included the Maniace Castle of Syracuse and the Swabian Castle of Augusta. The project was entrusted to the military architect Riccardo da Lentini.
In 1296, the castle was taken by Robert of Anjou, King of Naples, and subsequently was conquered again by the Aragonese. The King Frederick III of Sicily inhabited the castle from the end of the 13th century until his death, in 1337.
In the early 15th century, the castle was surrounded by various buildings, and Martin I, King of Sicily, cleared the space around it, to obtain a square named today Piazza Federico di Svevia. In the 16th century, a bastion called San Giorgio was built to defend the castle and some changes were made in the Renaissance style.
Starting with the 16th century, with the introduction of gunpowder, the castle gradually lost its military purpose, becoming temporarily the residence of viceroys, while a part of it was used as a prison. The 1693 earthquake caused a series of damages to the castle, definitively compromising its military role.
Castello Ursino remained a prison until 1838 and, after that year, it underwent various restorations. The last restoration was completed in 2009.
The castle is square, with about 50 meters on each side. The four corners have circular towers with a diameter of about 10 meters and a maximum height of 30 meters, while the two surviving middle towers have a diameter of about 7 meters. The walls are made of lava stone and have a thickness of about 2.50 meters.
HOW TO GET THERE
Castello Ursino is located about 1.9 kilometers away from Catania Stazione Centrale, the city’s train station. If you need precise directions to the castle, from any point in the city, use the map below.