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Destinations

THE THREE ANCIENT DOORS OF THE FORTRESS AND THE BASEMENT OF THE CASTLE

Once in Piazzetta Ponte Silvio you will find yourself in front of one of the first three accesses to the ancient Madonite fortress located in the upper part of the town, which was accessed by crossing a drawbridge, the Ponte Vecchio o Ponte di Silvio.

The other two front doors of the ancient castle were probably built in correspondence with other respective bridges that no longer exist today (Vedasi Di Francesca, 2000). However, these front doors were still existing at least until the 1965 as Passafiume Abbot reported:

Nella parte vecchia c’è un antichissimo castello, sito in un luogo inespugnabile, costruito ad arte e circondato da solide mura. Vi si accede attraverso tre porte, una delle quali è dedicata a Lorenzo Ventimiglia” (B.Passafiume, 1645), (In the olde parte there is a very old castle, located in an impregnable place, built very well and surrounded by strong walls. You can access there through three doors, one of which is dedicated to Lorendo Ventimiglia).

The door of Lorenzo Ventimiglia

It was the main door dedicated to the Most Illustrious Don Lorenzo Ventimigia Ruiz, who ruled the barony of Gratteri from 1642 to 1675 and whose remains rest inside Matrice Vecchia. This door was situated to the east, in the lower part, that is bordering the river, right between the old slaughterhouse and the “mulinello” (ventilating fan), the ruins of which are still evident not far from today’s Vicolo Manzoni.

Until time ago, the citizen of that quartier called that place “a porta granni” (Scelsi, 1981 p.36). From the consultation of the Riveli, it would be deduced that at that time there was actually a street called “strata di la porta granni” and which was located in the “lu ciumi” quartier, today called Via Fiume.

Therefore, this door would be located in the quartier that revolved around the front door of Ponte Vecchio o Soprano (near the Piazzetta Ponte Silvio).

Mintioni di rustici capu di casa rivela una quarta parti di molino existenti in lo territorio di questa et ne la strata di la porta grandi di prezzo di unci deci (Archivio di Stato-Palermo, Riveli Tribunale Real Patrimonio, V. 1166, anno 1584).

Sisilia Xeusa rivela uno terzo di casa existenti in ditta terra in contrata di la porta grandi suttana confinanti con la casa di Sabella Caro et di altri dui terzi di ditta casa di lo R.do preti Micheli Xeuza et via publica di prezo di unzi 8 (Archivio di Stato-Palermo, Riveli Tribunale Real Patrimonio, V. 1166, anno 1584).

Pizuto Francisco capu di casa di anni 38, rivela una casa existenti nela strata di la porta grandi conf. con la casa di Stefano Tamburello et con la casa di heredi di Joanni Caro (Archivio di Stato-Palermo, Riveli Tribunale Real Patrimonio, v. 1166, anno 1584).

The Porticella

A second opening could be found at the height of the Fantina bridgeSalita Fantina– where there is still a small arch called “dammuso” at the border of the ancient town walls and the river.

According to the local historian Scelsi, on the other hand, it stood where the current via Castello begins, right at the corner of Vicolo Albanese, right at the foot of the bastion of the clock tower, on the top of which stood the guard, with his trumpet, gave signals to the other guards of the castle (Scelsi 1981).

From the consultation of the sixteenth century Riveli there is evidence of a street called “di la Purticella” and a quartier indicated as the district “di li Porti” that revolved around the doors of the fortress.

Margarita Jacuza capo di casa rivela una casa existenti in questa terra a la strata di la porticella confinanti con la casa di Silvestro deagustaro et via pubblica di prezo di unzi 15 (Archivio di Stato-Palermo, Riveli Tribunale Real Patrimonio, V. 1166, anno 1584)

Salvestro di Majo capo di casa di anni 40, Susanna sua mogli rivela una casa terrana in un corpo in la qta di la Purticella conf. con Margarita di Palermo et altri di prezzo di onzi 24 (Archivio di Stato-Palermo, Riveli Tribunale Real Patrimonio, V. 1169, f. 712, anno 1607).

The door of Saraceni

The third entrance is the only one still visible located near Piazzetta Garibaldi which until 1900 was still called Piazzetta Saraceni, next to the clock wall. This last entrance was the south-eastern one towards the county of Collesano, which allowed the access to the Castle from a gallery consisting of a series of pointed arches, still existing under the church of “Matrice Vecchia”.

Above this structure, at a certain height, you can still see the medieval slits, designed to hit the enemy while remaining safe. Inside the tunnel then, the arches of the ancient buildings and some “barbacani”, which were probably used to put the drawbridge into action, are still untouched.

Mastro Gioseppe d’Agustaro tiene una casa solerata in tre corpi in questa terra quartiere della piazza vecchia vicino il muro dell’orologgio (Archivio di Stato-Palermo, Deputazione del Regno, Riveli 2945, f. 197, anno 1748).

It is also said that under this last entrance, there were underground passageways that directly connected the secret rooms of the castle with some exits at the door of the town making use of escape paths in case of attack. Referring to the arches, there is still today a place at the foot of the castle that is called “Arcarìa” where the prisons of the ancient fortress were located.

Bibliography:

Di Francesca P., Gratteri, Palermo 2000.

Scelsi I., Storia, cultura e tradizione, Palermo 1981. rist. Cefalù, Tip. Valenziani, 2008

Passafiume B. “De Originae Ecclesiae Cephaleditanae” Venetiis 1645.

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