Castello dei Conti (Castle of the Counts) is a fortification built on a rocky spur in Modica, which was for centuries the seat of political and administrative power of the County of Modica.
The Castle of the Counts is mentioned for the first time in a papal bull dated August 21, 1255. Then, in 1272, the castle appears on a list of the Sicilian state castles (Statutum Castrorum Siciliae) made for Charles I of Anjou, King of Sicily between 1266 and 1285.
In 1366, the Count Matteo Chiaramonte received here the visit of King Frederick IV of Aragon and, in 1401, the Count Bernardo Cabrera welcomed the King of Sicily, Martin I.
Starting with 1361, the castle was also the seat of the Grand Court of Justice. With the city becoming the Capital of the District of the Intendancy of Syracuse, the seat of all the offices remained in the castle until 1865.
With the Unification of Italy, the religious orders were expelled from their convents and monasteries, and the Castello dei Conti was definitively abandoned, transfering the Prison, the Court and the District Offices to the nearby convents that became available.
Inside the castle, in the upper part of the inner courtyard, there were the administrative rooms, while in the lower part were the medieval prisons, a series of square rooms carved out of the rock, each reserved for a specific category of prisoners: women, common convicts, gentlemen or people awaiting trial. For the most dangerous prisoners, there were two large trenches about seven meters deep, closed at the top by a powerful iron grate.
In the same courtyard, you can also find the relatively recent Church of the Madonna del Medagliere, built in 1930 on the ruins of the Church of San Leonardo. Some ruins of the Church of San Cataldo, the private chapel of the Count of Modica, are still visible today.
Near the walls of the castle, overlooking the city of Modica, there is a clock tower (Torre dell’Orologio), built at the beginning of the 18th century on the remains of a 17th-century lookout tower destroyed by the earthquake of 1693.
HOW TO GET THERE
Castello dei Conti is located about 1.4 kilometers away from the Modica train station. To easily find the castle on foot, use the map below.