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Riva del Sole Blog

The Ventimiglias and their castle

To fully enjoy your holiday, you cant’help visiting some of the many neighboring villages: one of these is Castelbuono.

The town is situated at about 423 m a.s.l., on the slopes of the Milocca hill:

To the north, between the centers of Pollina;
To the south, between the Madonie mountains;
To the south-east, Geraci Siculo;
To the east, San Mauro;
To the west, Isnello and Gibilmanna.

In addition, it is part of the Madonie Park. The town was founded by the Ventimiglia, Lords of the County of Geraci.
Francesco I of the Ventimiglias in 1316, built a castle which was flanked by the residence of the Ventimiglia themselves, through the structure that already dominated Ypsigro, a small farmhouse that housed approximately 300 inhabitants in 1282.

Through its construction, the small community was able to grow and expand, until Giovanni I decided to move there together with his court in 1454. Thus, it allowed Castelbuono to become the most vigorous and dynamic center of the great Ventimiglia heritage. Giovanni, having moved, decided to bring the greatest symbol of the value of the Ventimiglia family: the Sacred Relic of the skull of St. Anna, later donated to William by the Duke of Lorraine.

The Castle and the Relic of Saint Anne

The Castle and Saint Anne, the town’s patron saint, are the two pivots of many events in Castelbuono. Already during the 15th century, the court decided to welcome major intellectuals of different cultures and of considerable prestige.
Worthy of attention is F. Laurana, who worked on the Ventimiglia Mausoleum. In the meantime, parishes and convents were erected inside and outside the walls, thanks to the touch of master builders from Lombardy and Tuscany. They devoted themselves above all to the urban expansion of the feudal centre of Castelbuono, which became a capital city around the 16th century. The town’s cultural life is very dynamic and essential.

The Serpotta family was most probablyt the one that, working on the chapel of Saint Anne, contributed significantly to the evolution of the urban plan of the city. In the 1920 the castle was restructured many times. The Ventimiglia, to prove their love for cultures and arts, gifted a theater to their city. In that period, many literary academies were born, and among the prominent figures definitely stands out the figure of Torquato Tasso, who was also court artist.

However, at the end of the 18th century, this wave of progress and production gradually began to slacken and even came to a halt, leading up to the scenarios of the 19th century. The disappearance of the great nobility also marked this period. As a result, Castelbuono experienced the presence of other families that, years later, nevertheless enhanced its prestige.

Finally, in 1818-1820, the castle was severely damaged by several earthquakes, as a result of which the Matrice Nuova lost its bell tower and dome, and the top floor of the castle was even demolished. In the early 20th century, the municipality acquired the Castle and, with it, the Relic of the Skull of St. Anne.