Museum of Adrano, archaeology and history under the volcanoMuseum of Adrano, archaeology and history under the volcano

The history

According to tradition the foundation of the castle is attributed to Roger I, the Norman leader who, around 1070, saved Adrano from the Arab domain and, once he was died, bequeathed everything  to nephew Adelasia. 

Norman castle

Based on this assumption the tower would be part of those articulated systems of fortification that the Normans established throughout the Sicilian in order to control the island militarily and ensure its domination.

The Castle of Adrano, along with those of neighboring Paternò and Motta Sant'Anastasia, was built to control the pass to the hinterland along the river valley Simeto and to guarantee to the conquerors the control of the city of Catania.

Several factors can lead to the construction of the three strongholds in the XI century: the form of buildings, consisting of a tower isolated, with no other buildings fortified around; a plant similar to that used from the Normans for the construction of the castles (donjons) in their lands of origin (France and England) between XI and XII century; the strong elements of comparison in the structural elements of the three fortresses, characterized by the contrast between the strength and severity of the building shell and comfortable residential rooms, equipped with fireplaces, niches, closets and systems for conduction of water; Edrisi's claim that in 1150 speaks of the town as "... an lovely house with a beautiful fortress."

A second hypothesis, currently less followed by scholars, places the foundation of the castle three hundred years later, in XIV century, based on the decoration of the gentilitial chapel and on certain characteristics of the residential halls that would be own, according to this theory, of the Aragonese period, decorative details which later  can be explained as successive remaking of a structure already existed for several centuries.

Gentilitial chapel

In the centuries since its foundation, the castle was the residence of important families in Sicily, the Pellegrino, the Sclafani, the Moncada, which has dominated Adrano and its territory for a long time.

The building had finished being a noble place in the seventeenth century . At that time the roofs of top floors collapsed (perhaps for the strong earthquake in 1693) and began the decline of the building, from that time used as prison and only at the first floor.
So Ignatius Paternò  saw the castle at the end of the eighteenth century when, describing Adrano, speaks of the "beautiful tower of the time the Normans, which was the home of his counts, and today serves to prison for criminals."

So stayed until 1958, when it ceases to be used as a place of punishment and, thanks to thorough restoration work of the ancient  salons, reborn as museum.

Structural characteristics

There are two main construction phases. At first corresponds a rectangular tower, 20 meters wide and deep over 16. It was built using local lava stone, the building material more widely used in the area. The walls were built with a that thickness as to obtain the access stairs to the upper floors of the building, which reaches a height of over 33 meters. One time access to the fortress was through the portal near the angle Northwest, which now forms the entrance to the halls of the ground floor of the museum.


One of stairs deriving internal
by the perimeter wall

The original portal of entry
of the fortress

Each of the five-storey interior was divided into two halls of rectangular shape from a long longitudinal wall.Only the third level had a different division , where one of the salons was further divided into two to allow the location of the chapel.

We have no news about using of some environments but, according to some, the premises of the ground floor were reserved for soldiers and for the storage of military equipment more cumbersome, while those of the first floor were probably intended for the hall of representation and weapons. The three upper floors were closely residential,such as  habitation of the owners and of the servitude. It would be testified from the presence of numerous storerooms and niches deriving from the thickness of the walls and  large chimneys  used to heat large rooms.

The tower on angle North-West

The boundary wall belongs to the second phase, erected all around the building so hide the ground floor in the sixteenth century. The purpose was to adapt better  the defense of fortress to the introduction of the artillery. The defensive function of the new structure was heightened after introduction of four small towers, capable of protecting the angular walls, surely  destined to suffer more serious damage under the blows of guns. In addition to this feature there it could add an offensive one if one imagines the placement of artillery on the terrace of the boundary wall. 

Norman castle first phase
(virtual reconstruction)

Norman castle second phase
(virtual reconstruction)

Apart from few areas concentrated mainly on the eastern side, the bastion consisted mainly of an embankment, where they were derived several wells used as prisons where the prisoners up to the sixteenth century were buried alive; they received food and water only through hatches placed on the terrace.

The addition of the wall has changed the original main entrance to the castle and from that moment on it was probably on the opposite side through the door on the eastern side of the bastion.

The transformation to jail of the first floor caused an overhaul of the halls of the first floor, who were divided into cells and local service to prison, and changed again access to the building, achieved by setting up a great portal monumental derived in the northern of the bastion. 

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