Maniace Castle, locally known as Castello Maniace, lies in the city of Syracuse, in the province of Syracuse on the island of Sicily in Italy.
Maniace Castle was built between 1232 and 1240 during the rule of Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor. It is situated at the extreme point of the island of Ortygia, on which the ancient city of Syracuse was located. Together with the, now disappeared, Marchetto Castle it controlled the harbour and city of Syracuse. It was built on the spot of an earlier fort, built by George Maniakes, the Byzantine Greek general who had conquered Sicily from the Arabs in 1038. Hence the castle was named after him.
During the 13th century Maniace Castle was used as a royal residence. After the Sicilian Vespers it was resided in by the new King of Sicily; Peter III of Aragon and his wife Constance of Sicily.
In 1300 the castle was the place where a truce was signed between Frederick III of Sicily, King of Sicily, and Robert of Anjou, King of Naples. In 1302 it became the seat of the Royal Chamber, a feudal domain given by Frederick III to his wife Eleanor of Sicily as a royal dowry. It remained a hereditary domain of the Queens of Sicily until 1537.
After a banquet held in Maniace Castle in 1448, Captain Giovanni Ventimiglia accused all the guests of treason and had them killed.
In the last half of the 15th century, under the reign of Ferdinand II of Aragon, the castle was used as a prison and strengthened by Captain Goncalves of Cordoba.
During the 16th century, during the reign of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, the castle underwent many changes and turned into a real fortress when new outer walls were erected around it.
In the first half of 17th century Maniace Castle housed a garrison. It was strengthened again and renamed St. James Castle. In the second half the castle was equipped with a new battery at its southern end, named The Diamond, because of its shape. In 1693 the castle was damaged by an earthquake.
In 1704 Maniace was extensively damaged when a storm caused the explosion of the gunpowder magazines. It was rebuilt during subsequent years and warehouses were built within the castle's walls.
During the Napoleonic Wars the castle was adapted to the current state of warfare and the ramparts were equipped with cannons. In 1838 new barracks were built inside the castle. In 1860 Maniace Castle was handed over to the troops of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian general who conquered Sicily during the Expedition of the Thousand.
Maniace Castle remained a military structure until the 1970's when it was demilitarized. Between 1993 and 2003 it was restored.
This is a great castle which shows details of its use during several centuries. The grand hypostyle hall, dating back to the early beginnings of the castle, is magnificent. The castle can be visited for a fee.