ancient Cristina, perched upon a series of spurs among the Peloritani
Mountains, became a dominion of considerable importance with jurisdiction
over an extensive area following Frederick II of Aragon’s
concession of sovereignity in exchange for loyalty during the war
against the Angevins. Re-named Castroreale, it retains many medieval
features, with little streets and alleys that open onto delightful
little piazzas, and many churches, many of which containing a wealth
of artworks that testify to its glorious past.
Madre – An elegant baroque portal graces the front of the
main church in stark contrast with the massive 1500’s campanile,
which was probably used as a watch-tower. Inside are a charming
St. Catherine of Alexandria, dated 1534, and Santa Maria di Gesù
(1501) both by Antonello Gagini, and a Saint James the Great by
Andrea Calamech in the north aisle. From the terrace, on the east
side of the church, there is a magnificent panorama consisting of
the Milazzo plain. An inscription records the privileges granted
to this “royal town” by King Philip IV of Spain in 1639.
along corso Umberto I, than turn left towards the 1400’s Chiesa
della Candelora, with a plain brick façade graced with a
Durazzo portal. Proceeding along Salita Federico II, you get to
a round tower which is the all that remains of the castle built
by Frederick II of Aragon in 1324. From its top, a beautiful view
extends on Castroreale, the little Moorish dome of the Church of
the Candelora and the town’s surrounding landscape.
to Piazza Peculio, deriving its name from the Peculio Frumentario
(meaning wheat reserve, which was kept to cope with famine periods)
that rose where now is the Town Hall. Here probably was the Jewish
Quarter: the arch, re-built on the viewing terrace behing the Monte
di Pietà, likely comes from a synagogue located nearby. The
square is flanked by the 1400’s Chiesa del SS. Salvatore,
alas heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1978, with a semi-collpsed
tower, which once probably formed part of a chain of watch-towers
with those of the cathedral and the castle.
along Via Guglielmo Siracusa (formerly Via della Moschita), is a
small art-gallery on the right hand side.
di S. Maria degli Angeli – The art-gallery displays outstanding
paintings and sculptures, including a panel of St. Agatha (dated
around 1420) in the Byzantine style, a Flemish tryptich depicting
the Adoration of the Magi with SS. Marina and Barbara, a fine polyptich
of the Nativity from the Neapolitan studio of G. F. Criscuolo, a
marble statue of St. John the Baptist by Calamech in 1568) and a
silver altar-frontal by Filippo Juvara (18th century).
Civico – Housed within the former oratory dedicated to San
Filippo Neri, the Town Museum displays wooden and marble sculptures,
among which is a splendid funerary monument of Geronimo Rosso (1506-1508),
by praised Antonello Gagini. A number of paintings are equally worth-seeing,
consisting of a 1300’s Cross with scenes from the life of
Christ, a lovely Madonna and Child by Antonello de Saliba (1503-1505)
– with the infant portrayed with the face of an adult –
a Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World) panel by Polidoro da Caravaggio
betraying the clear influence of Raphael, and an altarpiece depicting
St. Lawrence by Fra’ Simpliciano da Palermo.
along the via, stands the Chiesa di S. Agata, remodelled in the
19th century, containing an Annunciation by Antonello Gagini, dated
1519, a statue of St. Agatha by the Florentine Montorsoli, dated
1554, and the expressive 1600’s plaster and papier-maché
image known as the Cristo Lungo, which is carried in procession
on a 12 metres-pole so as to be visible from every corner of town.
Nearby stands the 1500’s Chiesa di Santa Marina that incorporates
masonry from the Norman epoch and vestiges of fortifications typical
of Spanish defences.