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The Saracen Tower

The Saracen Tower is in the Bucalo quarter, on the left side of the Madonna del Carmelo Sanctuary. It was built according to some experts around the year 1000 in order to defend the territory against the incursions of the Saracens; it is a three-storey (plus one underground) cylindrical tower, with a near two-storey building dating back to the same period.

Some recent studies by the architect Salvatore Coglitore have showed that the tower and the building must have originally had another underground storey, which has become unreachable due to the debris and mud brought there by the torrent Savoca during the floods in 1934 and 1958. This shows that the tower must have been very impressive during the Middle Ages, when it reached a 15-metre height.

The two buildings belonged to the Archbishop Leonzio Crisafi in the XV Century and then passed on to the Bucalo Family, who in 1507 had a small church built near the tower, which was destroyed in 1929 to let the Madonna del Carmelo Sanctuary be built instead. In 1895 the engineer Pelleri, the new owner of the tower, had the building (where first the Archbishops and then the owners lived) made larger and taller by absorbing the tower itself.

The tower appears to be quite well preserved, even if on the front the plaster is ruined: its walls are made of stones and the frames are reinforced by bricks. Every storey has one room: the underground one was once the ground floor, which was buried by the debris brought by the torrent Savoca, which have made the ground level rise until the current one. The access to the underground floor is possible from the Pelleri building.

It is not called Saracen Tower because the Saracens built it, but because it was used to guard the coast from all pirates, and all pirates, at the time, were called Saracens: it didn’t have in fact military functions (at least after the XVI century), but it was needed for the protection of the inhabitants from dangers, above all brigands.

The tower was used as a connection between the part of the building that was near the Church (which no longer exists) and the main part of it (which is behind the tower as it is visible today). Other modifications have reduced the height of the tower, have changed the top (it used to be vaulted, now it is plain), medieval battlement was added, new openings were realized and a balcony on the Western side was built. When the Church was destroyed in 1929, the Northern side of the building was destroyed too, so that the tower was partly “set free” and be made more visible.

On the Eastern side (the one overlooking the Church square) there are three Gothic windows, one for each storey; on the North-Eastern corner of the ground floor, some rests of the old church wall are visible. At the first floor there is a suspended opening, which is half of a window belonging to the part of building destroyed in 1929. The Northern façade, the most damaged, shows the old church quire on the ground floor, and a part of the original tower wall; at the first floor there is a balcony facing the church with wrought-ironed railings, and on the second floor a walled-up door, which used to lead to the destroyed part of the building. On the Western side there is a window at the base, a balcony at the first floor and another walled-up door at the second storey. The top of the tower is crowned with a series of ogives underlying the battlement, all made up in bricks by Mr. Pelleri. The only access to the tower is provided from the building.

Old people say that this Tower and the Bagghi Tower, which is some 250 m far away, were once connected, but no concrete proof of it has been found so far. What has actually been discovered is that, at the rear of the tower, there is a dungeon, provided with a well: it leads to the basement floor of the tower and is now inaccessible due to the debris and the heap of brushwood that probably filled it at the time of the 1958 flood, as many elderly people of the place remember.

Photo: The Saracen Tower Photo: The Saracen Tower Photo: The Saracen Tower