My Trip To Europe. Day 14. Friday, October 17. Mussomeli

Mussomeli is almost dead-center in the middle of Sicily.  Today I see Mussomeli’s main church and the castle.

The Coins of the Day are from the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-161 CE).

Coins of the Day

I’m skipping from Claudius (died, 54 AD) over Nero and quite a few others and going directly to Antoninus Pius.  Most of the intervening emperors that I actually have coins for, actually tie directly in with something I’ll be seeing later on in this trip.

Antoninus Pius, 138 161 CE

Antoninus Pius was one of the “Five Good Emperors” (These are: Nerva (96-98), Trajan (98-117, Hadrian (117-138), Antoninus Pius (138-161), and Marcus Aurelius (161-180)).  Every one of these emperors was an adopted son, and all turned out to be fairly good emperors, and Rome had almost a century of relative peace and prosperity, no civil wars.  Marcus Aurelius was the kindly old emperor who was murdered at the beginning of Gladiator.  Although I don’t believe the real Marcus Aurelius was murdered, it is true that Commodus, his successor (and not adopted) was a disaster.

Here is a sestertius of Antoninus Pius.  The reverse shows Salus (personification of health, safety and general welfare, the words “salutary” and “salutations” derive from this.)

17-00117-002Sesterti are fairly large copper coins, valued (at the time) as 1/4 of a denarius.

And a denarius, with the reverse depicting a personification of Pax (Peace), standing.


Finally, this denarius depicts Marcus Aurelius’ wife, Faustina the elder, with the reverse showing Aeternatus (Personification of eternity and stability).




17-007Today I visit the main church and the castle.

Here is the exterior of the most important church in Mussomeli (distinct from Grandpa’s church, visited yesterday).


And the interior.  I’m going to just dump pictures here.


17-01017-011 17-012 17-013 17-014 17-015 17-016 17-017 17-018 17-019 17-020

We then went on a walking tour, not a lot of things were photogenic other than this clock tower



Then it was off to the castle.

The man watching the place today quite literally held the keys to the castle:


A lot of climbing.  Uphill to a switchback


At which this crest is displayed:


Then more uphill to a gate.  The switchback and hill were deliberate features, of course, to make an attack more difficult.  (No carrying long battering rams up a narrow path with a hairpin turn in it, even assuming you can brave the fusillade of arrows, rocks, boiling oil and whatever else raining down on you.)


This brought us to the stables, a place where we could look at the countryside


and a few steps up, the roof of the stable:


As you can see there’s more castle further uphill.


And now, finally the main level of the castle, including this courtyard:


17-031 17-032




Then the dining hall.  Note here the ceiling is trusses supporting wood.  I didn’t see the outside of this part, but I would expect the roof to be terracotta tiles.


No medieval castle tour is complete without a suit of armor:17-034

The bedroom:17-036

In constrast with the dining hall, the bedroom’s ceiling was stone, perhaps to prevent rude strangers from disturbing the castellano.  The groined vault was invented by the Romans (it began as the intersection of two barrel vaults) but the pointed arch was a medieval innovation.


The “facilities”


Then down into the lower levels, dare I say the dungeon



Back the way we came, and to the chapel, which was slightly higher than the courtyard (not too much, to the relief of everyone).


The interior


Also built to last:


Some of the decoration still remains.  I don’t recall whether this was painted directly on the stone or whether this is plaster and a fresco.  Frescos last as long as the plaster does, in fact even fresco plaster from Knossos, 3500+ years old, retains its colors, as seen here.


View from the chapel door; you can see recognizable bits of the courtyard.


And another view of the stables.  You can tell how steep the camera angle is, and how high the viewpoint is, from the houses in the background.     17-046

I hung back a bit as we departed so I could get this picture.  Imagine people down there attempting to assault this castle, having rocks, etc, rained down on them.  The people here had a reason for emulating mountain goats.17-047

Another shot of the countryside:17-048

And two more of the castle from the parking lot:17-04917-050In the end, of course, the family living in their castle lost their holdings, and Sicily became a part of a united Italy (1800s) and Italy is now a republic.  The land of Italy has been occupied for thousands of years, but the nation of Italy is actually fairly new.

If an Italian talks to you about a man named Garibaldi, he’s not necessarily a fan of Babylon 5.

Finally, a picture of Mussomeli’s skyline as we departed.  The main church from earlier in the day is prominent.17-051

I took that picture from the bus, for now we were on our way to Catania, to spend the night there and then go to the airport to fly to our next destinations.

The official “Dad’s Birthday Celebration” is over at this point, but he is going on to Florence and most of the group is following along.

I’d have to say this was in some respects the most interesting part of the Sicilian portion of the trip, but this is in large part for personal reasons.  On the other hand, the castle here actually, for the most part, matched my mental picture of what a castle ought to look like, unlike anything I saw during my European trips in the early 1990s.  Perhaps a true castle aficcionado can list a dozen better castles, but this one is the best I happen to have seen.

In memory of Mario D’Ippolito, 1899-1986

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