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Nelson's Castle

Benedictine Abbey

Put inside the Castle, the Abbey Of Santa Maria Of Maniace constitutes the biggest part of the building complex called Dukedom Nelson.

The ancient abbey, dedicated to Very Holy Maria, had been built by Guglielmo II° il Buono in 1174, for express wish of the mother the queen Margerita di Navarra, in memory of the bloody battle won by Giorgio Maniace against the Arabs (1040).

Built on a basalt cliff, is located on the flat ground of the lower part of the valley, on the left bank of the Saraceno torrent, place extremely striking and also of ancient origins: fairly close, in fact, in April of 1905, during some work on the fields, were found "two beautiful Roman mosaics of the low empire, storied with animals and human figures".

Externally the abbey appears as a low building with Sicilian roof, rectangular windows and doors framed in lava stone.
In the center of the paved courtyard there is a well in masonry of octagonal shape with elements in stone of decorative crowning, with an octagonal perimeter footboard cordoned off.

The building complex, in the state in which is now, gives only a vague idea of what was the original structure of the abbey's church, of the capitulary hall, the guest-rooms and the monastery cloister.

The news concerning the collapses due to the frequent earthquakes (among which the devastating one of 1693) make us suppose that what we see now corresponds in minimum part to the initial situation.

Is also likely that the most solid disposition of volumes of the monastery - called Nelson Duchy -, is the standing one arrived up to us in better conditions as, once passed to the Nelson, it was reclaimed and used as residence.

All the other structures instead remained bound to the management of the very vast agricultural fund.

All the rooms, organized around the central courtyard, were used by the Nelson as deposit, cellars, stables and granary. In this last one, recently turned into a very big hall with a single wooden covering supported by trusses (it became a study and congress center), interesting remains of Santa Maria's ancient church were brought to light (between which the apse).

The planimetric scheme of the premises and some architectural elements of the courtyard make think that the abbey was organized as a ring-like plant, around a central courtyard (accessed from the principal entry courtyard to the Duchy.

Is clear also that the visible ancients turret masts of Norman epoch that were protecting the abbey, and still visible, was part of a building complex of remarkable proportions and importance.

Maybe of the turret masts, the one facing south-west must belong to the original period; it has a solid and compact structure with vertical slots for sighting and defense.

The two guard turrets

on the river facing north-west and north-east must be of a more recent period. They have a cylindrical disposition of volumes with raw, very thick masonry, crowned by a battlement slightly jutting out on a frame of terracotta elements.

Il Portico

The paved courtyard of the abbey and the well with an octa­gonal base ; to the left the windows of holy Maria's Church.

MAPPA DELLA ZONA - 118 Kb, 28'' a 56 ,6 K

Some history of: Horatio Nelson, The Maniace Abbey

That of north-west was used, until recent times, as a meteorological station.

Recent archaeological excavations are giving exhaustive answer about the original form of the church of Santa Maria: in the basement part of the old granary of the duke were brought to light three semicircular structures in masonry of remarkable thickness.

They constitute without doubt the foundation of three apses of which the big access arches are well visible on the rear part of the church of Santa Maria.

They suggest a church with a longitudinal basilica body with three naves, a high triabsidated presbytery facing east, a shallow transept and a narthex composed of two towers that flanked the façade, which was almost twice the current depth (see Reconstruction hypothesis).

Translated by Sam Di BellaITALIAN VERSION

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