October 21, 2014

1311 ITALY (Sicily) - The castles of Erice


On Sicily’s westernmost coast, dominating the city of Trapani below it, the Egadi Islands to the southwest, and Monte Cofano to the east, stands the city of Erice, perched high atop the mountain of the same name, Greek as origin (Eryx), even if the settlement was founded by Phoenicians. Conquered by Aghlebids in 831 and renamed Cebel Hamid, in 1167 was occupied by Normans, who renamed it Monte San Giuliano, name that survived until 1934. Erice’s exceptional location on a plateau rising 751m above sea level contributes to a remarkable preservation of its medieval atmosphere, from the streets paved in marble to the stone walls enclosing flower-laden internal courtyards where family life unfolds undisturbed. The scene is further enchanted by the drifting fog that envelops the city and surrounding pine forest.

There are two castles that remained in the city: Pepoli Castle, which dates from Saracen times, and the Venus Castle, dating from the Norman period, built on top of the ancient Temple of Venus. On the remains of the sanctuary, the Normans built their castle, fulcrum of a defensive system that included the Balio towers - “Bajulo” the name of the magistrate who represented the King and resided with his court in the castle - which constituted the brought-about fortifications. The castle, built on the cliff of the “thèmenos” in the 17th century, was connected to the lower floor of the towers by a drawbridge, then substituted by the flight of steps that still today is travelled to reach it. Pepoli Castle was at first a feudal stronghold, though Erice was eventually ceded to the Crown as a demesnial city. The view from the castle towers is stupendous. Though both castles have been modified somewhat over the centuries, they still have that distinctively medieval character one expects of such fortresses.

About the stamp
The stamp belongs to a series of definitive stamps, about which I wrote here.

Erice - Wikipedia
Erice - Best of Sicily
The castle of Venus - comune.erice.tp.it

Sender: Ana
Sent from Palermo (Sicily / Italy) on 17.09.2014
Photo: Sasa Anselmo / 2008

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