Enna – The Castle of Lombardy

Via Lombardia, Enna, EN, Italia
Castello a Enna - Castello di Lombardia

The castle in Enna is the emblematic building of the city, the Castle of Lombardy, an imposing fortress that stands at the highest point of the town. By many experts it is considered the largest and oldest castle of the medieval period still existing in Sicily, covering an area of 26,000 square meters, making it also one of the largest in Italy.

The the Castle of Lombardy was built to defend against invaders; its roots date back to an ancient manor that the Sicani, pressed by the dangerous advance of the Siculi over two millennia ago, built on the highest part of the mountain, approximately 970 meters above sea level, where they founded Henna. The castle allowed the city, which arose nearby, to assume a prominent role, first among the Sicani people and then among the Greek city-states of the island. The city became a solid military fortress, so much so that the Romans were forced to pass through the sewer network to conquer it.

The presence of a stronghold facilitated the prominent role assumed by Enna throughout various historical periods. A Sicani king lived in the castle and even during the Greek city-states era, the city became a military stronghold that the Romans could only conquer by passing through the sewer network.

Near the castle in Enna, at a lower position, stood the fortress of Ceres, once built by the Sicani in reverence of the goddess of fertility. This devotion spread throughout the Roman Empire and was also attested by Cicero in his fourth book against Verres: “Not only the Siculi but also all the other peoples and nations greatly honor Ceres of Enna. Although there was a beautiful and magnificent temple of Ceres in our Rome, they nevertheless reached Enna. In fact, such was the authority and antiquity of that cult that, going to that place, it seemed like going not to the temple but to Ceres in person.”

After the Roman decline, it was the Arabs (10th century) who enhanced the importance of the fortress to the point of attributing to Castrogiovanni once again the peculiar role of Urbs Inexpugnabilis (Impregnable City).

Significant reconstruction interventions on the castle were carried out during the reign of Roger II of Sicily (1130). The stronghold took the name of Lombardy castle due to the presence of a Lombard colony in the adjacent district established with the Norman conquest of the island.

Even the infantrymen assigned to protect and guard the fortress were Lombards. A further extensive restructuring was ordered by the court of the Hohenstaufens (Frederick II, King of Sicily), which also ordered the construction of 20 towers to strengthen the walls around the residential courtyards.

In this historical phase, the importance and prestige of the castle grew and spread; the fort became one of the most impregnable in Italy and with the arrival of the Aragonese its prestige increased. Enna became the summer residence of Frederick III of Aragon, who convened the Sicilian Parliament in the castle of Lombardy in 1324.

Originally, the castle had 20 towers, but now only six remain, including the Pisan Tower, from which a spectacular panorama can be enjoyed.

In 2002, an important excavation campaign promoted by the Superintendent of Enna unearthed archaeological artifacts of relevance.

Nowadays, the castle of Lombardy constitutes the architectural symbol of the city even before the Tower of Frederick II, its most important non-religious monument and one of the most visited in the Sicilian hinterland. It is the perfect location to host the Federiciana Week with its medieval markets and neighborhood games, all strictly in medieval attire.

From the Pisan Tower and the castle, it is visually evident that Enna is the Umbilicus Siciliae and the Romans probably nicknamed it this way due to the vastness of the landscapes that embrace large parts of the island.