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