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Motta San Giovanni

Motta San Giovanni is located at 450 m above sea level.

The term “motta” once used to indicate a fortified center built on top of a cliff, inaccessible and at the same time panoramic.

The origin of Motta San Giovanni, however, is uncertain, even if the inhabited center developed around 1500 probably after the destruction of the fortress of S. Niceto. Like the other Greek countries, it was destroyed by the earthquake of 1908, but was then rebuilt at a point slightly further downstream.


Built as an appendix to the San Niceto castrum, Motta San Giovanni ended up absorbing it when it was destroyed in the 15th century.

In 1507 it became an independent fief with the Aragons of Montalto, later passing into the hands of four Messinian patricians: the Minutolo (1561), the Marquett (1565), the Villadicane (1576) and the Ioppolo, who were suffocated by the debts, lost it.

Auctioned to 46,000 ducats, it was bought in 1605 by Carlo Ruffo di Bagnara who had to pay 33.450.00 for ducats. In the seventeenth century the village was still an enclave of Greek priests. Here lived Nicola Stavriano, a relative of the bishop Giulio Stavriano who in 1572 had abolished the Greek rite at Bova.

Ironically, he wanted Nicola to be a Greek priest in Motta San Giovanni. When the Ruffo di Bagnara obtained the title of princes from Philip IV, they transferred it to the village in 1682 to demonstrate the importance that they attributed to it, until the feudalism, decreed by the French government in 1806.

Motta San Giovanni has always been known for the craftsmanship of the Reggio stone: a calcareous sedimentary rock much used in construction, extracted mainly in the quarries of the district of Sarto in Motta San Giovanni and from the quarries of the Capo d’Armi promontory, the calcareous ridge baptized from the Greeks Leocupetra (white stone), which rises in Lazzaro, a hamlet of Motta San Giovanni, which grew at the end of the eighteenth century on the edge of an active port in Roman times. In 44 B.C. Cicero landed here, a guest in the villa of Publio Valerio, while he was on his way to Greece, fleeing from Antonio.


To visit, in Motta San Giovanni, the S. Niceto Castle. The original core of the fortress was built at the beginning of the eleventh century; it was then registered as “castrum” in the Angevin registers of 1268 and, in the following year, was counted among the 19 castles of the Royal Curia. Numerous works were carried out by the Aragonese and in 1459 it was annexed to Reggio.

The irregular planimetry of the enclosure delimits a large area with numerous ruins in which a tower is visible, depending on the keep, a building adjacent to the walls, a central building and a sacred building. Relevant are the remains of the curtain wall with little protruding towers and the entrance door between two square towers.

The “castle” proper is an early medieval fortification of irregular structure whose boundary walls, which follow the edge of the escarpment, are interrupted at the height of the keep by a transverse wall that divides the fortified area into two zones. The curtain has been well preserved for most of the circuit, with the exception of the collapsed south area due to landslides. There are several masonry techniques used for the walls and buildings.

The most used material is squared stone and slabs, while the corners are made of blocks. ” Among the streets of the village stands the church of San Giovanni Teologo, inside which there is the statue of the saint with the eagle symbol at his feet. The flange at the base, bearing a heraldic coat of arms of the Aragons, inlaid with the signs of the Anjou, authorizes us to think that the statue was made when Motta San Giovanni became an independent fief, confirming the support of the Frangipane who commissioned it around the fourth decade of the sixteenth century.

Not far away, the sacristy of the church of San Rocco preserves a corpus of stone materials, coming from the local cult buildings, dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.