The History of Sicily

Spanish Rule (1516-1618)

Upon the deaths of Ferdinand and Isabella, there began a series of revolts against the detested Spanish viceroys, who had inflicted a great deal of suffering on the Sicilian populace. Unfortunately, every one of them was suppressed.

Ferdinand and Isabella’s daughter, Joanna of Castile (1475-1555) married Philip of Hapsburg (1458-1506) but when her husband died in 1506, Joanna went into a deep depression, earning her the nickname “the Mad,” and she had to be placed in a nunnery for the rest of her life. In 1517, her son Charles of Hapsburg (1500-1558) took the throne. The grandson of the Emperor Maximilian and of Ferdinand and Isabella, he had been born in the Netherlands and, as Charles V, he became the Holy Roman Emperor as well as the ruler of Spain, the low countries, and Sicily.

The 16th century was an unhappy one for Sicily. Both Christian and Muslim pirates attacked its port cities, the crown and the Spanish viceroys offering little help. Many of barons had gotten their lands and titles from the Angevins and the Spaniards, and much of the land owned by the Church was in the hands of Spanish ecclesiastics. Furthermore, the viceroys, hardly ever native Sicilians, were paragons of corruption and viciousness. The only decent Spanish viceroy was Pedro Tēllez-Girón (1574-1624) who came to Sicily in 1611. Besides reforming the financial system and overcoming the recalcitrance of Messina, whose leaders had refused to pay taxes, he was a patron of the arts, establishing a legitimate theater in Palermo.


Noto, Arch Mounted by Frederick II's Imperial Standard