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The sword on the door

by | Jun 11, 2019 | Palermo tours, Sicily tour diary | 0 comments

During the Middle Ages, Palermo became a very important city in Sicily. In 1072, the Normans defeated the Arabs and transferred the capital of their kingdom here. Therefore, the city bloomed and a specific kind of architecture developed also thanks to the use of Muslim workmanship that still lived on the island.

Nevertheless, the city went through some political crises and rebellions took place during this period. Certainly, the most famous is the one led by the owner of the castle of Caccamo, Matteo Bonello, a Sicilian nobleman who betrayed King William I and guided a conspiracy of Sicilian nobles. In fact, the nobles had realized that the people hated the king and decided to depose him.


So, according to the legend, during the riot, Bonello also killed an important nobleman faithful to the king, Maione of Bari, in the road between the archbishop’s palace and the cathedral.

In the end Bonello captured King William and named his 9-year old son Ruggero King. Following this event, many Muslims close to the king were persecuted, among which was also the great geographer Idrisi, who had to flee from Sicily forever. The upheaval was very violent and many works of art were destroyed, as well as many unique books that represented an immense treasure of knowledge at the time.

Eventually, Matteo lost control of the angry mob and the King’s ministers succeeded in liberating William I, but his son Richard, still a child, was killed in the clash.



Consequently, when the king regained power, he pretended to forgive Matteo in order to arrest him. After he was captured, he was tortured until he became blind. Even more, the king ordered to hamstring him and threw him in prison where he died among a thousand agonies.

Today the most attentive visitors of Palermo will notice a strange sword still hanging on the door of the archbishop’s palace. According to the legend, it is the sword of the nobleman of Caccamo placed as a warning for what had happened.

On closer examination it is immediately evident that the sword is much more recent, but as always, legends are stronger and that strange object in the street that is named after Matteo Bonello will be always linked to his legend.

Hence, if you walk around Palermo, near the archbishop’s palace, and look up at the top of the building’s door, you will also remember the conspiracy of Matteo Bonello and the Sicilian nobles. Enjoy your walk!


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