BALIO CASTLE (Erice) On the place where perhaps the beautiful priestesses of Venus intertwined the sacred dances of the rites, the castle is still surrounded by the eternal legend of the Goddess, who was particularly adored here in Erice, and consists of a group of towers created at the time of the Normans as offshoots and defense of the great castle built by them on the ruins of the temple. In the 14th century, under the reign of Frederick III and then Martino, the castle of Erice belonged to the Trapanese Abate family, famous for having marked, through its illustrious men, numerous pages of Sicilian history. It also became famous for having given life to a saint, that S. Alberto degli Abate (from the 13th century) who perhaps had to choose one of these isolated towers as his home where, surrounded by so many sacred and pagan memories, he would have dedicated the his life to God. These towers then, by deed stipulated in 1872, were sold to Agostino Sieri Pepoli from Trapani, who, having received this concession from the municipal administration of the time, had the burden of restoring them and creating around them a large garden for public use. Thus was born the beautiful park called "Balio" because it was created on that floor that led to the castle in which, once, the "Baiolo", that is the one who administered civil justice, resided. The beautifully restored and connected towers, even without the charm of ancient times, present themselves today with the appearance of a real medieval castle, emerging with its agile structure from the fog (which so often envelops it in every season) as a fabulous vision that vanishes and reappears ... It is owned by the Adragna, Sieri Pepoli and Serraino families.
THE NORMAN CASTLE IN ERICE, A FORTRESS FOR VENUS
The Norman Castle in Erice is also known as the Venus Castle, because its history has its fulcrum and origin in the goddess of fertility.
Where the fortress is now, there used to be a temple dedicated to Potnia, the goddess of fecundity worshipped by the Elymians, an ancient pre-Roman population that inhabited this part of Western Sicily.
According to legend, this is also where Erix was buried after dying in a boxing match against Hercules. Erix was the son of an Argonaut and of Aphrodite, and Erice was named after him.
Virgil says another son of Aphrodite-Venus, Aeneas, buried his father Anchises in this area, before traveling to Lazio.
In the 12th century, he Normans used the stones of the temple to build the castle, which was restored after a long period of decadence in the 19th century by Count Agostino Piepoli. He had the pentagonal tower rebuilt after it has been destroyed in the 1400s, and created a beautiful English-style garden, open to the public and destined to become a symbol of the town.
Just another proof of Sicily’s fertile beauty.
The Castle of Venus was connected by a drawbridge, the same as the Arabic geo Ibn-Giubayr (sec.XII), with the so-called Balio Towers. In the castle were the most important representatives of the regional authority, including Castellano, who administered criminal justice and which included, among its main tasks, the direction of the prison and the maintenance of the fortress Bajulo, who supervised civil justice as well as Check on the Payment of Taxes. The area surrounding the Castle takes the name of “Balio” right from the figure of the Bajulo of the kingdom.
What remains of the ancient fortress was the work of the Normans. Inside, there were also unfortunately lost architectural elements in support of the historical route, essentially referring to the medieval reconstruction of the fort, where fragments of ancient sanctuary were also reused, and the rebuilding of the temple in the Roman epic.
THE GARDEN AND THE BALIO TOWERS
After the definitive decay of the role of fortress of the castle, the ancient Norman towers preserved only ruins, and the slope on which the Carthaginians erected the first Fortifications was abandoned to rage. At the end of the nineteenth century, Count Agostino Pepoli concluded with the city administration an agreement that he would reclaim the whole area at its own expense and rebuild the towers, which would remain property. The result of the rich and patronized work was the restoration of the pentagonal tower destroyed in the fifteenth century, and the curled curtain to protect the interior, as well as the construction of the Balio “English” public garden. The latter, together with the tower built by Pepoli on the northwest side of the castle cliff, today, after years of abandonment, undergoing restoration and destined for the new function of the “Observatory for Peace” – is indisputably One of the Erice’s symbols.
The Normans who conquered Sicily in the 12th century built a massive mountaintop castle, a majestic show of might, on the site of an ancient temple to Venus, goddess of love. Medieval towers and the ruins of walls still surround the compound, and through defensive slits and other openings you can look out over the plains of Trapani and the Egadi Islands, showing off the site’s defensive advantage. Still visible are the foundations of the temple and precincts that housed a cult whose young female devotees serviced male worshippers sexually. This was deemed such an honorable profession that when the women ended their duties at age 21, they were considered especially desirable brides.
The Norman Castle in Erice is also known as the Venus Castle, because its history has its fulcrum and origin in the goddess of fertility. Where the fortress is built, there used to be a temple dedicated to Potnia, the goddess of fecundity, worshipped by the Elymians, an ancient pre-Roman population that inhabited this part of Western Sicily. According to the legend, this is also where Erix was buried after dying in a boxing match against Hercules. Erix was the son of an Argonaut and of Aphrodite, and Erice was named after him. Potnia was known as Astarte by the Phoenicians-Carthaginians, as Aphrodite by the Greeks and as Venus by the Romans (hence the name Castello di Venere, “Castle of Venus”).
In the 12th century, the Normans used the stones of the temple to build the castle, fulcrum of a defensive system that included the Balio towers – “Bajulo” the name of the magistrate who represented the King and resided with his court in the castle – which constituted the brought-about fortifications. The castle, built on the cliff of the “thèmenos” in the 17th century, was connected to the lower floor of the towers by a drawbridge, and then substituted by the flight of steps. In its interior were found – and unfortunately, also lost – several architectural elements attributed to the Medieval reconstruction of the fortress, in which also fragments of the ancient sanctuary were reused.
Ancient and very noble family, originally from Genoa, which enjoyed nobility in Genoa, Spain, Sardinia and in the Kingdom of Naples. In the Chronology of the Consuls of Genoa ("Proceedings of the Ligurian Society of Homeland History" - Vol. I, fasc. 3, paper 240) it is noted that the House is a descendant of the Ligurian family of the de Mari; the progenitor was Corso, who took his surname from his father Serra, son of Ottone de Mari, of the Visconti class in 1122. The Serra di Sardegna reached their peak in 1145 with Barisone de Serra proclaimed king of Sardinia by Federico Barbarossa. The Serra di Genova, on the other hand, were aggregated to the hotel of Casa Lercara, in 1528. From the sons of Paolo, senator of the Republic of Genoa at the beginning of the 16th century, there were three branches: the descendants of Antonio, the eldest son, obtained numerous titles, including: Duke of Terranova (1574), Prince of Gerace (1609), Marquis of Gioia (1654)