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Medieval Itinerary

The Medieval essence of Naro is characterized by the presence of architectual masterpieces belonging to the the sicilian gothic epoc.


Our medieval journey through Naro consists of five stops:


  • The Chiaramonte Castle;
  • The Antique Norman Cathedral;
  • The Porta d’Oro (the Golden door);
  • Saint Catherine’s Church;
  • the Malfitano Giacchetto Mansion.

The first stop

Our first stop is the Chiaramonte Castle, which was declared a National Monument in 1912.

The Castle stands on the top of the hill of Naro situated at least 600 metres above the level of the sea; in the past this hill was called “Mount Agragante". Most probably the castle was built during the XII century taking the place of a pre-existint arab fortress which was erected during the period of the arab rule in Sicily. Frederic III of Aragona in 1330 desired changing the original structure of the castle, so he decided to add a Mastio (a square tower) where he lived during his stay in Naro. The western side of the tower has a coat of arms which has the emblem of the Aragona dinasty on it; the eastern side is characterized by two gothic mullioned windows which illuminate the large Prince’s hall on the first floor.



In 1336, Naro went under the dominion of Matteo Chiaramonte, who introduced other changes to the castle.

The entrance portal, characterized by an acute angled arch, situated on the western



Side, dates back to the end of the XV century. On the sides of the portal there are two rectangular bastions (two projecting parts of a fortified place). The castle-walls are tall and interrupted by two cylindrical towers and by two rectangular ones. Inside the castle walls there is a big central courtyard with a well in it’s middle. From the courtyard there are the entrances of the old lodgings of the garrison, of the stables, of the chapel and in cases of great danger the courtyard was a safe place where the peasants could find refuge.

The castle occupies an area of 1460 square meters and has a perimetre of 166m.

The second stop

Nearby there is the second stop of our itinerary: the Old Norman Cathedral. The construction of the cathedral was promoted by Ruggiero d’Altavilla in 1089 and it is believed to have been built on the ruins of a pre-exixtant mosque.



In 1174 Walter Offamill ranked the Cathedral to the position of Mother Church (the most important church of the area) and he donated it’s portal. In 1266 the celebration of the consacration of the Cathedral took place in presence of the apostolic legate of Pope Clemente IV and in 1398, by will of Martin the Younger , the church was promoted Cathedral. In that same year, the latter beautified even more the Cathedral with the construction of a cappella, called Cappella Maggiore, which was restored subsequently in 1565 by Bernaardo Lucchesi Palli.



The Cathedral is preceded by 209 steps that go from Via Dante to it’s portal. The Cathedral’s stairway was built in the 1700’s and it rappresents the medieval concept of life considered as a hard pilgrimage in order to reach the salvation of the soul.

In 1771 the cathedral underwent a restoration that witnessed the introduction of typical baroque elements.

Due to it’s abbandoned state and it’s gradual decline the Cathedral was closed down to the cult in 1867 since being considered a site of possible catastrophe.

After different restorations, today one can admire the Cathedral’s spacious façade characterized by a blind rose-window (circular window) and by it’s portal ornated with zig zag decorations, typical details of the past sicilian gothic epoc.

The fourth stop

Our fourth stop through medieval Naro is the Church of Santa Caterina (Saint Catherine’s Church), built by will of Matteo Chiaramonte in 1336.

The church witnessed it’s typical late gothic semplicity being replaced with the baroque style in 1725, but thanks to the attention of earl Alfonzo Gaetani in 1937 and subsequently in 1959 thanks to the Superinterndency of Monuments, it’s pure gothic features were brought back to light.


The church was constructed with yellow sand stone; the inside is characterized by a square plan which develops into a nave and two aisles delimited by 14 pilars which form ogival arches, all covered by a wooden cross vault ceiling. The aisles contain what remains of some illegible frescos, attributed to Cecco from Naro (who painted the Steri Mansion, home of the Chiaramonte’s in Palermo, with Simone from Corleone and with Darenu of Palermo). On the right hand side of the church there is a fresco of the XV century which rappresents the Transit and the Assumption of the Virgin, that come from the old Norman Cathedral.

This little church is of great interest, not only for the many works of art that it conserves but also for it’s marble baptismal font done by an anonimous artist, datable around XV century. The baptismal font is ornated with the coat of arms of the Aragona dynasty, two slaves, the wheel of Saint Catherine and the coat of arms of the city of Naro. The superior part is decorated of winged cherubs from which unbinds a decoration of leaves.

The third stop

The third stop of our route is the Porta d’Oro (the Golden Door). Today, it rappresent’s the only entrance of the town (out of the six that were distributed along the town walls) which has survived through time. The walls delimited a rhomboidal area.


They were built in 1263 and restored in 1482, but with time, due to the superflous difensive purposes, in the 1700’s a gradual demolishing process of the town walls began. The name ‘Golden Gate’ comes from the gold traded in the nearby Jewish ghetto and also from the wheat that came from the countryside just outside the door.

The fifth stop

Finally we have arrived at the last stop of our journey through medieval Naro, the Malfitano Giacchetto Mansion. The architectual elements that belong to the original structure belong to XV century, for example a thin little pillar belonging to a corner window which denotes a typical Catalan taste.

Lady Antonina Notarbartolo, after the builiding of the Saint Francis Church in 1635, which darked the mansion’s beautiful view of the sea, she decided to donate the mansion to the town, transforming it into lodgins for nuns and at the same time into a sort of school for the young ladies of the town. In the XVI century the former San Rocco hospital and the homonymous church were annexed to the mansion, and after different restorations, in 1749 it was turned into Our Lady’s College (Collegio di Maria) carrying out it’s activities right upto the first World War. Since the year 2000, the Malfitano Giacchetto Mansion has been re-opened, and is now the Graphic Museum.

written by L.. Universo