Originally, the Byzantine castle of Gioia del Colle was just an enclosed courtyard, used to defend the people from raids by the Saracens. Only later in the 12th century did Ruggero Siniscalco enlarge the courtyard, transforming the structure into a fortified noble residence.
It was Frederick II who in about 1230 expanded the square central core with four corner towers, including it in a castle system known to the cities of Trani, Barletta, Bari and so on, farther and farther south as far as Sicily.
According to legend, King Manfred, son of Frederick II and Bianca Lancia, was born in this castle. After Bianca was unjustly accused by the emperor of unfaithfulness, she cut off her breasts and had them served them to Frederick II on a silver platter. This legend is the source of the sculpted breasts in the cell of the “queen’s tower,” in memory of this event. The rooms on the first floor hold furnishings such as fireplaces and seats placed there following the restoration of the castle in 1907.
Standing out in the courtyard is the staircase decorated with bas-reliefs of animals and hunting scenes: it is partly a reconstruction of the “Pantaleo” along with the two- and three-light mullioned windows overlooking the courtyard. Ownership alter passed on to the princes of Taranto up to the 1400s, the counts of Conversano up to the 1600s, and the princes of Acquaviva until the early 1800s.
The Castle is currently the home of the National Archeological Museum, which occupies two floors and presents the theme of “Living in the City in Ancient Puglia” in the sections on the house, women’s work, men’s work, work in daily life and children’s games. The artifacts on display date from the 7th to the 3rd century BC and allow one to see the lifestyle and ideologies of that time: the religious and funerary uses, with pottery of excellent quality produced both locally and imported from the city of Taranto. There is all the pottery for domestic use, tools for work and other uses, and polychrome architectural elements found during excavations at the Monte Sannace archeological site. Also on display is a complete suit of armor from the 4th century BC, with helmet, breastplate and jambeaux, along with other iron weapons with belts and individual helmets of fine craftsmanship.