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In front of the mythical Fonte Aretusa, we can see the imposing Maniace’s Castle, on the extreme tip of the island. The building is among the most important monuments of the Swabian period, and certainly the one that still sees formulated as many conjectures.

The castle stands on a place where tradition tells of earlier fortifications; recent excavations, however, have revealed no trace of the manor named by the Byzantine commander George Maniace. It is likely that the deep excavations of the rocky bank of the Swabian period for the new foundations have completely erased any trace of the likely pre-existing fortress. In Trapani the fortress is the end of town, towards the territory and not on the tip; Messina is the point where the town meets the territory; Augusta – which has a geography totally similar to that of Syracuse, with two ports – the castle was built to defend the port and the city.

Do you think that Federico II, intelligent man who knew how to build castles in the right place, would have built one with defensive purposes in Syracuse at the harbor, in an eccentric position if compared to the city? He knew that the defense of Syracuse was secured on one side by the sea and on the other by a castle still efficient, Marieth, placed on land at the entrance of the isthmus to Ortiga. To understand the strategic importance of the site just think that right from the side where stood the Marieth branched off the complicated defensive system built by Charles V for Syracuse. In the moments of glory such as in those of lower decline, the castle history has been linked to that of Syracuse: it was here that Frederick signed for the foundation of the University of Naples. In 1288 King Peter of Aragon lived there with his family. In 1321 Frederick II of Aragon here called the Sicilian Parliament which sanctioned the legacy of his son Peter II of Aragon. During the time that Syracuse was the site of the Queen’s Chamber (1305 – 1536) the castle hosted the Queens Constance of Aragon in 1362, Mary of Aragon in 1399, Bianca of Aragon in 1416, and the last one who dominated the City, Germaine of Foix, second wife, then widow, of Ferdinand the Catholic. Throughout the fourteenth century the castle was not used for military purposes but, as an alternative to Marieth, it was used as a place of restraint.

Once abolished the Queen’s Chamber, Charles V, cooperated with the Viceroy of Sicily Ferrante Gonzaga, for a comprehensive program of consolidation of the existing fortifications and buildings of new bastions. In this articulated defensive system the Maniace castle was to become the point of strength against pirates. From the sixteenth century they started a new system of the building with the use of artillery. Thus led to a gradual strengthening of the castle through works and complementary structures (Vignazza battery, Bourbon blockhouse) with the risk of not only destroying the original structure but even demolishing it.

Near the West Tower is the Queen’s Bath: the entrance is from a door opened in wall and down a staircase carved into the rock. Then you reach a room of which many things have been told. It was said it was spacious and decorated with marble, with seats and bathtubs. As a matter of fact it is just a tiny room of about 1 m. per side and is nothing but a source of water supply to the castle, which uses one of the nocturnal emissions of fresh water of which Ortigia was once rich.

Today it is possible to visit the castle partially and, thanks to the restoration and improvement works, the rooms of the castle are progressively returned to public use, among these we suggest you the Sala Ipostila.