The building of the Murat Castle was done in two different historical periods.
The first part built, was of the only big tower called ‘Torre Mastia’ or the look-out tower. It was part of the Angevinedefense system against the Saracen incursions into the town. It was built at the end of the 1300s.
A hundred years later, the castle was part of Ferdinand I of Aragon’s fortification plan of the coast of Southern Italy, the purpose of which was to contain the Saracen incursions, which had become rife in the southern seas.
The Aragonese king, who had remained alone against the Turks, wanted to secure his kingdom, fortifying the coastal areas that were most at risk. With the ordinance of the 12th of November 1480, he decreed for Calabria, the fortification of Reggio and the construction of castles in Crotone,Cariati, Corigliano, Belvedere, Pizzo and other places. The solid rectangular base was to be added, with another tower (conical in shape), quite a bit smaller than the previous tower, and the construction below it, at the Marina, of a small watch tower.The building works started in 1481 and ended in 1485.
At its completion the castle had its own harquebuses and artillery,it had its own soldiers under the command of an official.
The castle was never a noble residence, but usedmostly as a military fortress and prison.
The feudal owner was the count of Mileto, Carlo Sanseverino, but it was subsequently taken away from him for his participation in the plot of the barons against the king. In 1505 it was given to the Mendoza family by Ferdinand the Catholic, and by succession it became property of the De Silvas, duke of the ‘Infatado’, until 1806 with the abolition of feudalism, it became property of the Municipality of Pizzo. With the decree of 3 June 1892 it was declared a national monument.
The description of the castle
On the whole the castle conserves its original appearance.
The castle floor plan develops from a quadrangular, into a trapezoid shape of 50*74*38*74 meters.
The entrance used to be through a drawbridge, which has been substituted by stone paving. Above the main entrance there is a memorial tablet in remembrance of Joachim Murat, brother-in-law of Napoleon and the castle’s most famous prisoner, who was shot in the castle.
The castle was partly damaged by the earthquake of 1783 that destroyed the upper chambers that were rebuilt in 1790 and paid by the duke’s administration.
Some of the castle’s structures have been lost, but on the whole it preserves its original appearance.
The castle is composed of a ground level floor as well as an upper level floor. Under the ground level floor there are underground structures that are closed to the public but which have been said to lead out of the city to nearbyViboValentia (about 11 km) and towards Lake Angitola (about 7km).
The part of the fortress that can be visited consists of the semi-subterranean parts and the upper chambers.
Inside the castle one can see an historical reconstruction with some mannequins in historical costume, which reproduce the last days of Joachim Murat’s life: in the half-underground cellars a long and narrow corridor leads to the cells where Murat and some of his soldiers were held; on the first floor there is the room in which the trial against the ex- king of Naples was held; the cell in which he spent the last moments of his life, and in which he confessed to the localcanon Masdea and,lastly where he wrote the goodbye letter to his wife Carolina and his four children. You can see the place where he was shot on the 13th of October 1815 on the gallery.
From the terrace of the castle there is a beautiful view of the gulf of St.Eufemia andthe smoking Stromboli, and you can also see the piazza(square) of Pizzo, a place of meeting for the inhabitants of the city.
Sunday the 8th of October 1815, there was a small fleet of three ships anchored near the Pizzo coastline, from one of these ships; a small boat with thirty-one people on board was approaching the shore.Three men were standing on the bow of the small boat:the first man was Joachim Murat, king of Naples, the others were General Franceschetti and his aid Campana, the rest of the crew were simple soldiers.King Joachim Murat was the proud brother-in-law of Napoleon and was wearing an elegant blue jacket, with gold embroidery on the collar, on the breast and the pockets; red trousers, spurred boots, a belt with some pistols and a hat with feathers; and rolled up on his left sleeve his old royal flag. He wanted to gather supporters to recapture his throne, which had been taken away from him by the Bourbons.When he landed at Pizzo, Murat at the head of his small armymarched to the old city. It was ten o’clock when he arrived in the main piazza (square) of the town. The inhabitants looked at them in astonishment which grew at the sight of the richly dressed Murat.He arrived in the middle of the crowd before someone recognised him, even though he had been to Pizzo five years earlier, when he was still king.Addressing them he said, ‘Do you recognise your king?’, but his appeals fell on deaf ears with the reticent crowd who was clearly suspicious, and almost all of them ran away. General Franceschetti seeing that the crowd was not friendly advised Murat to return to their ship, but Murat refused saying ‘It’s too late the die has been cast, let my destiny be fulfilled in Monteleone.’