The History of Sicily

The Sicilian Vespers

On March 30, 1282, the Monday after Easter, a sergeant in the Angevin army made sexual advances to a married Sicilian woman while she and a crowd of her neighbors were preparing for vespers at the Church of Santo Spirito, just outside Palermo. Her husband killed the French soldier, and a brawl, which left 2000 Frenchman dead, ensued. Hating their Angevin rulers, other Sicilians stoked the flames, and the revolt spread throughout the island.

In the months that followed, the rebels invited King Peter III of Aragon (1239-1285) to assume power. (He had married Manfred’s daughter Constance in 1262). In September 1282, Peter was proclaimed King of Sicily in Palermo. Aragonese emissaries were then sent to Charles in Messina, where they concluded a truce by which the French would be able to embark for the mainland unhindered.

As a result the regno was split in half, with the Angevins in control of southern Italy. However, Charles refused to give up the title of King of Sicily, leading to the notion of the Two Sicilies, which was, centuries later, to be formalized in a nation called The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.


Gothic Fresco, Castelbuono