Venus Castle in Erice
The Castello di Venere di Erice, also known as Castrum Montis Sancti Juliani, is a 12th century Norman castle that stands on an isolated cliff in the south-eastern corner of the summit of Mount Erice. Next to it are the Balio Towers.
Around the 12th century BC, in the same place where the castle stands today, there was a small open-air altar, built by the indigenous people of Sicani, dedicated to a female divinity, considered the goddess of love, fertility and protector of sailors. Subsequently the Elymians and the Carthaginians-Punics maintained the cult of the goddess, whom they called Astarte, increasing her fame among all the peoples of the Mediterranean. The Punic people were the first to introduce oriental rites and uses including, the cult of sacred prostitution, and the breeding of doves, an animal sacred to the divinity, which flew around the walls of the sacred enclosure. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Erice and its sanctuary were abandoned, for 800 years there is no trace of the town in the historical sources. With the arrival of the Altavilla, the town returns to its former glory. On that fortress, which for centuries had housed the sanctuary of the goddess, the Normans built a majestic manor, destroying the ancient sacred temple.
The castle was connected to the rest of the summit by a drawbridge, subsequently replaced by the current staircase. Above the entrance door you can see: the Habsburg coat of arms of Spain, a plumbing hole that served to hinder the enemy and a fourteenth-century mullioned window.
The facade of the castle is dominated by Ghibelline battlements and the wall of the complex follows the outline of the cliff. Here is the entrance to a secret tunnel, which was underground with respect to the disappeared buildings and led out of the castle. In the steep rocky wall, a wall rises, attributed to Daedalus, made up of twelve horizontal rows of neatly squared stones and superimposed on opus rectum.
Inside you can admire, in addition to a magnificent panoramic view, some archaeological finds that can be dated from the Archaic age to the Norman age, such as: the Roman baths, the well of Venus, remains of the temple of Venus, the bridge of Daedalus, the dovecote, the medieval wall, the loopholes, a medieval tunnel and the Bourbon prisons.