MONTALBANO ELICONA

 Montalbano Elicona

Montalbano Elicona was declared “Borgo dei Borghi d’Italia 2015”, it is located at 907 meters above sea level.

It still maintains its medieval spirit thanks to the celebration of the Aragonese Feasts every August.

The alleys are animated by the life of the court, with the reintroduction of the medieval Cavalcade to the Palio dei Quartieri.

The castle

The village is best known for its Swabian Aragonese castle, built on top a hill encompassing the historical ruins of Byzantine and Arab defensive garrisons.

The history of Montalbano Elicona and the castle is linked to the name of Frederick II of Swabia, also known as the stupor mundi and Frederick III of Sicily, known as Frederick II of Aragon.

He loved the village so much for its healing waters and healthy air that he transformed the castle into a regiae aedes or “palace”.

The Byzantine Chapel of the castle still houses, in a stone sarcophagus, the preserved remains of the trusted doctor and advisor to the sovereign, Alnaldo de Villanova.

In addition, the castle houses two educational museums with contrasting themes: medieval white arms and stringed musical instruments.

In the alleys leading down from the castle, two additional monuments can be discovered.

Originally found within the walls of the village, the minor basilica of Santa Maria Assunta and the church of Santa Caterina.

Both house significant works by Gagini, the father and son “masters of marble”.

The church of Santa Caterina, dated 1310, owes its name to the marble statue by Antonio Gagini representing the Saint with the symbol of his martyrdom.

And in  the basilica, in the chapel of St. Nicholas, can be found  a sculpture by his son, Giacomo Gagini, dated 1587 and depicting the Saint as the patron saint of the village.

The name Montalbano Elicona recalls, on the one hand, the Greek noun helicon or “tortuous”,  that describes the course of the river Elicona, and on the other mons alubs.

This means for the snow-capped peaks that reach 1200 meters above sea level.

Argimusco

Among these we remember the Argimusco, which means “plateau with large offshoots” which  can be reached by following  the road of the tholoi, or “beehive tombs”.

The Argimusco is the only example of a megalithic site in Sicily.

Various limestone rock formations, modeled by wind and rain, give rise to interpretations:

the Jointed Hands of the Orante, the menhirs, symbol of fertility, and the Eagle, which accompanies the dead to the afterlife with its beak facing south-east.

According to tradition, in the past, this place was an ancient astronomical observatory and sacred place.