The castle was built between 1239 to 1250 and belonged to Emperor Frederick II, the King of Sicily. At that time the castle was considered impregneable and therefore had important milityry role. After the move of the capital away from Catania and appearance of powder weapons, the castle lost its military role and was used as a prison.
The castle has a retangular plan with a circular tower at each corner and an open air inner courtyard. It was built on a cliff looking out to sea but as the result of volcanic eruption it is now a kilometre inland. The former moat was fiilled with lava, as it could be seen on one of the pictures.
Castello Ursino, or Ursino Castle in English, originally stood high above the sea. But as a result of the lava flow caused by the eruption of Mount Etna in 1669, it is now some hundreds of yards from the coast. Ursino Castle is huge. It was built between 1239 and 1250 for strategic reasons. The interior is in a good state of repair and contains a number of works of considerable ancient and medieval artistic interest.
Because of the change in land on which the Castle now rests, it is actually set within what has now become a residential area. Some of the lava from that eruption in 1669 can still be seen.
Although admission to the castle is free, it is only open usually from about 8:30am-1pm (like a lot of other places in Sicily!) However, the castle is illuminated during the evenings, so no matter what time of day it is, you will still be guaranteed a good look at it.
Ursino Castle, located in Piazza Federico di Svevia, at the end of Via Auteri between Via Plebiscito and Via Garibaldi, used to be a coastal fortress before volcanic eruptions extended the coastline. This castle was built by Richard de Lentina on the orders of Emperor Frederick II von Hohenstaufen in the first half of the thirteenth century and subsequently modernized in the manner of those at Messina, Taranto and Bari. It is now a museum open to the public.
The only surviving remnant of medieval times in Catania. The reason for this is twofold: earthquakes and lava. The great quake of 1693 basically razed the city and this was one of the few structures to survive.
In the same general time period a huge lava flow destroyed half of the city, and in fact destroyed everything around the castle. It miracalously survived: the lava parted when it encountered the castle's huge moat and swept around either side. To appreciate how amazing this actually is, pause to consider that the castle was once on the COAST. Obviously no longer the case, as the lava extended the coast outward by some margin. [For extra credit there's a huge painting of this event in the cathedral.]
Not to be missed is the eagle perched atop the doorway, put there by (I think) one Roger who wanted to remind the populace that he was always watching them.
The castle itself houses the Museo Civico, which generally holds small art exhibits and houses a few bits of medieval brick-a-brac.
Castello Ursino - was built in 1239 - 1250 from the will of Federico II. The building was destroyed by eruption in 1669 and by earthquake in 1693 and 1818. This port was reconstructed and then become the prison. Today we can find inside the beautiful exposition which covers regional decorations and famos statues (several made also from lava-stone).
13th century castle built by Richard de Lentina, was on the coast before lava extended the coastline. Is now a museum.
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