Castello Ursino and City Museum

Castello Ursino in Catania was founded by Frederick II of Swabia in the thirteenth century. The manor played an important role during the Sicilian Vespers, as it was the seat of the Parliament and, eventually, the residence of the Aragonese kings, including Frederick III. Today it hosts the City Museum.

It was built by Frederick II of Swabia between 1239 and 1250. The emperor wanted the castle as part of a complex coastal defense system in Eastern Sicily including the castle of Maniace in Syracuse and the castle of Augusta, which are related to the same project. It was supposed to be the symbol of imperial authority and the power of the Swabian dynasty in a city which was often hostile to them. The project and direction of the works were entrusted to the military architect Riccardo da Lentini, who built it on a impregnable rocky promontory overlooking the sea, connected by an isthmus to the city and to the city walls. It was also equipped with an impressive moat and drawbridge. Probably the name “Ursino” derived from Castrum Sinus or the “Castle of the Gulf.”

Acquired in 1932 by the city and subjected to restoration, the castle is now located in the historical centre and it has been used as a museum since October 20th 1934.