I am posting this story written by the Lipari tourism bureau. I hope that it will be no violation of copyright laws, as I am crediting it to them. If it is an issue to them I will have no problem in deleting it from the site with my thanks for its use while it is posted. This is computer translated from Italian. It is quite well done, but there are a few idiosyncrasies.
The Destruction of the City of Lipari byAriadenu Barbarossa
In 1519 Charles V enlarged his domain obtaining the imperial crown of Germany disputed by Francis I, King of France. Between these two kings on several occasions were fought terrible battles that turned the whole of Europe into a scene of strife. After more than twenty years of struggles, Francis I, to get rid of his opponent and satisfy his fierce passion for revenge and ambition, considering himself lower in strength, forgot to be Christian and established an alliance with Suleiman the Great, king of the Turks. He well understood that this was the right moment to take advantage of the discord between the two Christian kings to expand, so thanks to the work of pirates who had their homes along the coast of Africa, he drew from them rich loot.
A fleet of 150 ships, was therefore sent in 1543 by Suleiman to the aid of the French king. It was placed in charge of Ariadeno (ad-Khair dín), king of the pirates, commonly known under the name of Barbarossa, for his reddish and thick beard. He had already left Tunis with bad memories of his person during the time that it was the ruler. After travelling along the coast of Italy, having caused considerable damage in some seaside towns; he arrived in France, where for about a year he stayed close to Marseilles. After that, king Francis I, regretting the scandalous ties with those infidels, from which he had had only immense expenses and hatred of the Christian people, sent Barbarossa back to the East, giving him many gifts. Driven by his nature, the king of the pirates decided to take, even during the return journey, actions to draw strength from the Christians and the greatest possible spoils. The intentions of the pirate were known even before he undertook his return journey. The city of Lipari was in great fear, located on the route the Turkish armed naval fleet had to take in order to return home. The Viceroy of Naples, Don Pietro of Toledo, at the end of May 1544, sent a ship to inform the inhabitants of Lipari and warn them out about the threat that weighed on their city. The news did not bewilder the Liparesi, and even knowing the strength of the enemy, they mustered soul and fervour to prepare the defence of their city. From Messina, they provided, with money collected among themselves, abundant weapons and ammunition. It was the ancient custom that in case of danger the cities nearby would help each other by sending well-armed men, supplying food for three days to three weeks, and temporarily some pieces of artillery. So the city of Patti, as can be seen from a sixteenth century document that is preserved in the Municipal Archive of that city, on that occasion gave artillery to the island of Lipari. It was decided by inhabitants of the island that they should take the opportunity to send all the women, children and those unable to fight to Sicily to keep them away from danger and at the same time alleviate the amount of the provisioning needed to resist a long siege; but it was the opinion of those who had power that no one should leave the island so that the people of Lipari, being committed to defend their homeland and even their family, would thus fight with more tenacity and rage. Also, the possibility suggested by some, to let come from Messina, a strong garrison of Spanish troops to increase the number of defenders, had no happy outcome, trusting that only the forces of the island would be sufficient to defend the city. They did not have better luck from the request of the Viceroy of Naples to send a garrison to help. Peter Toledo required the inhabitants of Lipari to bear the costs of the garrison, which was not accepted by the inhabitants, this being a large expense and impossible for them to pay it.
Lipari prepared to suffer the massive assault force of Ariadeno Barbarossa. Meanwhile a ship arrived from Naples for the Liparesi by the Viceroy Peter Toledo, full of munitions of war, as well as the warning that it would not be long till the arrival of Barbarossa. He, in fact, departed from Toulon for Constantinople, first robbed along the coast of Naples and then conquered the island of Ischia. Not satisfied with this devastation, at the end of June 1544 he moved against the island of Lipari to conquer it. Maurolico, historian of the time, writes that, on June 30, the Turkish fleet had reached up to Policastro, and the next day, from the highest peaks of Monte Peloro, it was seen approaching the Aeolian islands and that the number of ships was 144. The inhabitants of Lipari, who knew the reputation for cruelty of Barbarossa, as soon as they knew that the terrible pirate was arriving, trusting in the site of the city, strong by nature, withdrew all, as it had been decided, to the Castle, confident of being able to support a long siege. Inside the walls of this castle, was built the city itself and it was situated on a steep cliff surrounded by the sea, which made it difficult to conquer, and it was also provided with a fortress. The access to this cliff was only through a street which could be watched by a few people and whose entrance was protected by walls and ramparts. At the foot of the cliff there was an inhabited village that as soon as the famous pirate got closer, was abandoned by the people who ran to the confines of the Castle.
Barbarossa, arrived at the island, resolutely entered the port and laid siege to the Castle without wasting any time, sent an envoy asking for the surrender of the city. The residents were determined to fight rather than surrender. Barbarossa landed his men on the beach of Portinenti. A strong central force and several guns were landed, when the artillery of the inhabitants of Lipari began to fire, causing serious damage to the enemy, and the ships of the attackers were forced to leave and find protection by the beach under the tip of Capistello. The Liparesi had some success before the ships be to be secured and two enemy galleys were sunk. The audacity of Liparesi didn’t disarm the assailants, who waited for the night to try again and proceed undisturbed, landing other troops and other guns, which were placed next to the old church of St. Bartholomew, which was close to the Franciscan convent. In this area, which was somewhat higher than the nearby ground, was arranged, the artillery and the camp for the troops. Only with the coming of the light of the day the Liparesi realized what the enemies had done the night before. Between the two contenders started a fierce and incessant duel. Day and night, without any respite, the city of Lipari was beaten by the cannons of Barbarossa, ruining the walls of the Castle and causing heavy losses among the ranks of the defenders. For a short time the besieged could counter the enemy with effective blows. The third day their artillery was destroyed but the soul of the Liparesi was not. While they defended themselves bravely, the pirate sent thirty galleys to Patti to get a supply of water. Prevented from getting the water for the continuing assaults by the Sicilian cavalry, the Turks sacked the town of Patti in revenge, taking rich booty and burning about one hundred and fifty homes.
The Liparesi, understood that any further resistance would be in vain so they sent four ambassadors to Barbarossa for the conditions of surrender and beg for the safety of their city from destruction. Huge was the request of the pirate Barbarossa, that asked hundred thousand Scudi to leave the island. The ambassadors went back within the walls of their city and reported the response to the citizens. The conditions of surrender were extensively discussed, but the Liparesi not being able to raise such a large payment, requested that the pirate settle for a smaller sum. The proposal enraged the king of the pirates who, without delay ordered the bombing of the city. The siege machines approached the walls of the castle causing damage and victims, considering it dishonorable to leave without having conquering the city of Lipari.
On July 4, while Lipari was fighting fiercely, an eclipse of the full moon occurred and this gave rise to very strange beliefs. The Turks meanwhile, made even more ferocious by the heroic resistance of the Liparesi, redoubled their efforts and assaults. The besieged resisted, convinced that if the enemy succeeded in penetrating the Castle, they would all have been massacred without any reference to person, age or sex. In the meantime part of a main wall of the castle collapsed, destroyed by the shots of the enemies, and many defenders got injured. Superb in defence, derogatory of life, not at all discouraged, the besieged resisted, trying to repair each hole caused in the walls by the enemy bullets, with stones, mud and wood. To intimidate the besieged, Barbarossa, sure he would not receive any more trouble from the Liparese artillery, drew his galleys closed that had remained safe behind the tip of Capistello and let them enter in the bay of Portinenti, where other troops and pieces of artillery disembarked. The new preparations drove the Liparesi to send on July 8, to the camp of Barbarossa, a new embassy, composed of three of the most prominent citizens of the island, to implore the enemy to suspend the assault and make appropriate requests for ransom. The embassy was unsuccessful and the violent bombing of the city of Lipari continued more and more aggressively, so the Commander of the fortress of Lipari and the jurors decided to ask the intervention of Iacopo Camagna, a man esteemed by all, for his authority and practice in business. Camagna, seeing that the island was reduced to poor condition and that there was no hope of rescue, as it was surrounded by land and sea by the enemy, noting that its citizens mood was deeply broken, and the enemies were becoming more daring, although finding himself in precarious conditions, due to his years and his poor health, accepted the task of dealing with the enemy. Coming to Barbarossa, Camagna, with soft words and full of persuasion, tried to obtain clemency for its citizens, saying that they were ready to open the doors of their Castle as long as the pirate provided immunity of those who were inside. The proposal was not accepted by the enemy, which promised instead to leave free from any charge only twenty six families. This was brought by Camagna to his countrymen, who with a strong prayer decided not to surrender.
The besieged decided to send a new ambassador to Barbarossa in the person of Bartolo Comito, with an offer, as a condition of surrender, that each man could be free by paying twenty Scudi. It seemed that the proposal had been accepted by Barbarossa, so the Liparesi, convinced by the promises made to Camagna and Comito, tired of the long siege and lacking food and ammunition, decided to surrender.
On the morning of Friday July 11, after ten days of fierce fighting, all the people of the island, led by the Captain of the army and the elders of the city, went to the camp of Barbarossa to give him homage and deliver the keys of the city. The king of the pirates, accepting the submission, sent everybody back to the castle giving the order to his officers to compile a list of the richest twenty six families that according to the pacts were to be left free from any problem and from the payment of any tribute. In the afternoon of the same day Barbarossa, followed by his officials and a triumphant crowd of mercenaries, went inside the walls of the city of Lipari and gave the order to transport into the house of Camagna all the furniture of the free twenty six families, in order to preserve it from the looting that his soldiers would have made in the occupied city. After having done that, They granted to the Turks the looting in the city. Disorder and ferocity was everywhere, all sort of iniquity, robberies and inhuman acts were made. All the houses were stripped, and many of them were reduced to piles of stones by the ferocity of the devastation . To accelerate the vandal destruction, many parts of the city were set on fire. Nothing could hold back the devastating fury of the attackers, not the churches, not the sacred images, which were trampled, dirty with mud and dragged on the ground. The Church of St. Bartholomew, near the port, and the noble religious monastery of S. Francesco dell'Osservanza were destroyed and set on fire. Even the cathedral, erected by the munificence of the Norman Count Ruggiero, was set on fire after being sacked by the infidels. The great ceiling and the splendid works of painting and wood which made the temple an artistic treasure, were incinerated. Also destroyed were the Municipal Archives in which were preserved many public writings of the Church and of the city of Lipari.
When the devastation of the city was finished, contrary to the established agreements, on the morning of Saturday July 12, Barbarossa ordered the transport onto the ships all the furniture that had been gathered in the house of Camagna, property of the twenty-six families left free and set fire to the house of Camagna. Not only this, but Barbarossa, contrary to the conditions of surrender, after loading on the booty, carried onto the galleys the inhabitants of Lipari without relieving anyone from slavery.
Afterwards, he sacked and burned almost the entire city reducing to the most squalid desolation the island. The pirate brought with him huge booty, the unfair trophy of war, and more than eight thousand prisoners of both sexes and age, leaving the city completely depopulated. On July 14, the pirates plundered Milazzo and approached Catona close to Reggio Calabria, where, many of the Christians that were prisoners of Barbarossa, were redeemed especially by the Messinesi, including many Liparesi. The condition of the prisoners was serious, not easily fed, they were left to die of hunger and often thrown as useless into the ocean. After some days along the Calabrian coast, Barbarossa continued his journey, bringing to the East thousands of Christian slaves and rich booty. Among those who were redeemed from slavery there was Camagna, against whom many voices arose, accusing him of being a traitor, so, soon after he was released, the Governor of Messina detained him under serious charges. Camagna justified his conduct and proved his innocence and after a few months he was able to return to his hometown in Lipari. The Liparesi that got the ransom returned home and with those who had been saved by escaping to the nearby countryside, began to repopulate and rebuild the city.