history, culture and art

The town of Caltanissetta, in the center of Sicily, stretches between the San Giuliano, Sant’Anna and Sant’Elia mountains. Downstream, between Mount Sabucina and Mount Capodarso, the Southern Imera River flows. Here, the monumental Capodarso Bridge was built in 1553, by order of Viceroy Giovanni De Vega, during Charles V of Habsburg’s reign, formerly referred to as one of the island’s three wonders.

The history of Caltanissetta is long and complex: from the 7th century BC. have natives, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Catalans, the Bourbons followed each other in the heart of the island and left traces, very significant testimonies.

The years after the unification of Italy were marked by great economic progress. Years associated with the intense mining of the sulfur mines, after the long, traditional civilization of the grain. Wheat, in the dual sense of primary food good and archaic ritual-symbolic sign, has deep roots in the thousand-year-old Mediterranean agricultural culture. And central Sicily has always, for migrant people, mostly from the east, emerged from the sea as a fertile and generous “promised land” of ears. I remember Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s words as he moved towards Caltanissetta from Girgenti (Agrigento) in April 1787: “We rode under a scorching sun through this desolate fertility; eventually we were happy to arrive at Caltanissetta. It is in a good position and well built… ».

The city is growing, and between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it is the scene of a series of changes that have redesigned its face. Caltanissetta redefines its administrative and urban structure, welcomes new inhabitants, creates the most important buildings from an architectural and monumental point of view. Mainly buildings in neoclassical or eclectic style with wall surfaces and decorations in Sabucina stone with a typical yellow ocher color. From the 1960s onwards, Caltanissetta spread like wildfire over the surrounding area, effectively leading to the abandonment of much of its historic center, of its four ancient districts: Angeli, Provvidenza, San Rocco and Saccara. In the last few years, however, a positive process of restoration and renewal of the historic city center has begun, albeit in the midst of limitations and contradictions, starting with the suggestive Provvidenza district.

The physical and symbolic center of the city is Piazza Garibaldi, in the nineteenth century named after Ferdinand I of Bourbon. The square marks the intersection of the most important and beautiful streets in the historic center: the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the Corso Umberto I. The Triton Fountain, in the center of the square, evokes and evokes mythological Mediterranean hints. The square is dominated by the white facade of the cathedral, Santa Maria La Nova, built between 1570 and 1622, in which you can admire the extraordinary frescoes from the eighteenth century by the Flemish painter Guglielmo Borremans and other valuable works of art, including the statue of Archangel Michael, patron saint of the city. In front of the cathedral the eclectic, high elevation of the Church of San Sebastiano.

The austere Palazzo del Carmine, the town hall, also overlooks Piazza Garibaldi. Perspective extension of the adjoining Palazzo del Carmine, Teatro Comunale Regina Margherita: the interior, warm and inviting, has four floors of boxes and is decorated in neoclassical style with baroque inserts. Among the beautiful buildings that characterize the urban landscape Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, the Palazzo Testasecca, Benintende, Giordano, Barile and Caglià Guettard stand out. Along Corso Umberto I we find the Palazzo del Banco di Sicilia, in an eclectic style on the outside, in an art nouveau style on the inside; then Palazzo Sillitti Bordonaro and Palazzo Canalotti. Central, dominant, in the perspective image of Corso Umberto I, is the monument dedicated to the King of Italy, created by the sculptor of Santa Claus origin Michele Tripisciano. The statue of Umberto I faces the Church of Sant’Agata and the Jesuit College, the seat of the Luciano Scarabelli Municipal Library and the Vincenzo Bellini Higher Institute of Musical Studies. Inside the church, with a Greek cross plan, the chapel dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola for his grandeur. Nearby is the city’s most important and most majestic civil building: the Palazzo Moncada, built in 1651 after Prince Luigi Guglielmo In the will of Moncada, belonging to the family of the great feudal lords of Catalan origin, rulers and architects of modern Caltanissetta. The majestic building, a peculiar expression of Sicilian baroque, is now home to the Civic Art Gallery and the Tripisciano Museum; but also by the Multiplex Cinema Palazzo Moncada and the Red Theater of San Secondo, belonging to the Mandalà family. A short distance from Piazza Garibaldi, in front of the central building of the railway station, the beautiful staircase dedicated to Silvio Pellico, among the many, typical steps of a hill town. Of a prosperous, beautiful and austere city in the late nineteenth century, refined by the projects of the architects Alfonso Barbera, Giuseppe Di Bartolo Morselli and Pasquale Saetta. Also noteworthy are the public buildings built after World War II: Palazzo degli Uffici, Civil Engineering Office, State Archives.

In the oldest part of Caltanissetta, in the Angeli district, the original medieval village, we are amazed by the evocative remains of Pietrarossa Castle, a symbol of the city, the scene of important historical events in Angevin, Aragonese and Moncada Sicily. Adjacent to the ruins of the castle, the beautiful Angeli Cemetery and the monumental complex Santa Maria degli Angeli.

On Mount San Giuliano, which overlooks the city, stands the Monument to the Redeemer, which Pope Leo XIII had built on the occasion of the 20th anniversary. On Monte Sant’Anna, on the other hand, is the Rai antenna, built in 1949 -51, 286 meters. If you go downstream, in the direction of the southern Imera River, you will find the Romanesque church of Santo Spirito and the Regional Archaeological Museum, which illustrate the history of the ancient settlements in the urban and extra-urban territory of Caltanissetta and other centers in the provincial area, from prehistoric times to late antiquity. If you continue, you will find the Averna Museum and the production facility, Santa Barbara Village and the “maccalube” in Terrapelata, what is left of the former sulfur mines Gessolungo, Trabonella, Giumentaro. And the Capodarso Mountain Nature Reserve and the southern Imera Valley.

Among the city’s museums, very interesting and special are the mineralogical and paleontological museum in Zolfara, truly unique, the elegant diocesan museum in Mons Giovanni Speciale and the Museo delle Vare: the latter houses the majestic statue groups (“goods”) of Jesus’ passion and death, made in second half of the nineteenth century by Neapolitan sculptors Francesco and Vincenzo Biangardi for the procession that takes place on Holy Thursday night in the city. Nissena Holy Week is a traditional event that takes place in Caltanissetta in the week before Easter. It consists of various religious events linked to each other, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. In 2006, it was entered in the intangible inheritance register of

Sicily. The rituals “Scinnenza” and “Real Maestranza” are part of the international circuit Europassion.

So there are really many reasons to come to Caltanissetta to get to know the city and enjoy its rich historical, cultural and artistic heritage, its many landscapes. And the citizens of Nyssa are diligent, hospitable, cordial. Today in search of new identities. In short: in the center of the island you can discover a “different” Sicily, a surprising quality of life, “in spite of everything” – Leonardo Sciascia will say, who lived here the beautiful and intense years of training. “My transfer to Caltanissetta was accidental. It was a fatal accident that had a major impact on my fate,” Sciascia said as he spoke about his relationship with the city and with the Sciascia bookstore and publishing house, the cultural and political cenacle of “it little Athens “. In fact, this is how the author from Racalmuto defined Caltanissetta, where he lived and lived. And from here he reaped the first fruits of popularity with the novel” The Day of the Owl “.

Prof. Leandro Janni, President of Italia Nostra Sicilia

ph. Leandro Janni

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