The book about Cammarata
There is a particular charm in rediscovering the history of Sicily through the events of a small town, in whose life you participate. Events take on a different dimension; the unfolding of great events becomes more alive, linked as it is to the re-enactment of them in the history of a locality, a ruin, a palace. Little by little, immersing itself in this re-enactment, it is the country itself that tells.
The corners and districts are colored with history, in every place you can find the breath of time. The arch of a fourteenth-century church, the tower of the Castle, the bulk of a convent and the marble of a funeral monument return to have the flavor of their era. They are no longer cold and motionless silent witnesses of the past, but, almost by a prodigy, the places resume each one of their best moments.
This naturally happens when a municipality is full of history, when there is something that has remained, even if little, of the Byzantines and Arabs, Normans and Swabians, Angevins, Aragonese and Bourbons, that is, of those who have followed as a domain or as an influence in the passage of time.
But there is another element of fascination and interest when one looks back at the past: and it is when, in addition to the thread of events, one tries to grasp the extent to which the facts of history have influenced the traditions and life of a community. . Here are the men, slowly emerging from the mists of time with their story. And then the events serve to understand habits and customs, so many dark areas are illuminated, so many are clarified because, one feels from what the story of every citizen, of every family, rich or poor, of a town in the interior of Sicily derives .
Thus, even for Cammarata, stones and ruins, men and shadows, through these pages, make their voices heard. It is the story of an agricultural village that already existed during the period of Byzantium, with its farmhouses, its fields, its wooded mountain, its caves in which Neolithic tribes had inhabited millennia earlier. It is the story of a village that knew the Arabs, in which the Normans brought or brought back feudalism, which lived its history for seven centuries in the shadow of the Lords, rising to the rank of County, which several times tried bloodyly to reach the autonomous life with its Universitas, its statutes, its free municipal system, which became a municipality in 1819 after the abolition of feudalism, which has actively participated in the entire history of the last two centuries.
But it is a story full of exciting pages: the popular revolts to get rid of feudal servitude and pass as a free city to the royal state property (that was then the highest expression of freedom), the formation of high schools of rhetoric and philosophy, the flowering of the Saints and learned men, the presence among the Counts of Cammarata of people who tried to modify the living conditions of the peasants, unlike most of the other Lords who saw the lordship of Cammarata only as the place from which to draw what to feed the pomp of their life and their warlike adventures.
And again the influences of the monastic communities: the Benedictines, the Ursulines, the Dominicans, the Capuchins, the minor friars, the history of miracles and local traditions, the affirmation of an ancient artisan tradition for carpet weaving, the creation of numerous philanthropic works by wealthy families are many pieces of a large mosaic, which is formed with the reading of this story and which binds, with a poignant participation, those who have breathed the air of this mountain, but which also attracts those who does not know this country.
And one grasps from the depths the reason for a way of life, and one understands the reason for so much resignation, and one admires and appreciates and palpitates more for every inhabitant of this earth, and more firmly one wishes to work to make better life. RAFFAELLO RUBINO - Mayor of Cammarata
Lying on the slopes of its majestic mountain, which from its two conical peaks of various heights, Monte Lungo and Monte S. Venere, dominates the vast territory, built on a steep slope close to a high cliff on the surrounding hills, Cammarata offers itself to the eye in a truly unique location and appearance. Its houses, which climb one on top of the other, as in a frantic race to the top of the hill, dominated by the swift and light silhouette of the bell tower of S. Maria di Gesù, seem, so closely leaning against each other, to constitute a single immense building , a gigantic construction, dotted here and there by the green of its gardens and the trees that grow in the streets or in the squares.
When in the morning, at its first sunrise, the sun illuminates it and is reflected in the countless panes of the thousand windows of the houses, it seems that a magician has enchanted them and transported them to a fairy tale kingdom;
then at night, the innumerable lights, flickering in clusters in the darkness, in a disorder not without suggestion, suggest a galaxy entangled in the trees of the woods, or a gigantic crib that, by magic, lives perennially on the solemn and austere mountain scenery, under a sky teeming with stars.
Whoever looks out at one of its windows, or at the railings of its squares and steep and winding streets, but open to the surrounding landscape, can constantly admire, in the infinite variation of tones, lights and colors, that the succession of seasons and hours gives the sky and the countryside an immense panorama slowly degrading towards the Platani valley. Crossed by the asphalt strip of the road, marked by the stripes of the many trazzere flanked, in spring, by the flowering brooms, surrounded by a large cloister of hills and mountains, the landscape is lost up to the remote blue curtain of the Madonie and, in the days clear, against the backdrop of an immaculate sky, up to the unmistakable cone of Etna, luminous in its perennial snows, eternally flagged by its plume of smoke.
It is not easy to trace the history of the origins of Cammarata, especially of the territory, which awaits the patient research of the archaeologist. In recent years the Akragas speleological group of Agrigento has carried out repeated, albeit summary, explorations in some of the numerous caves in the territory of Cammarata and S. Giovanni Gemini and prismatic and pyramidal nuclei, siliceous razor blades with beaten backs, microliths have been invented retouched, scrapers on the ends of blades, burins and awls on fossil bone.
Several times, and at different times, both in these as in other caves, non-colored clay pots and shards have been found, some of which showed traces of geometric designs. Furthermore, in the territory of Cammarata, the findings of siliceous or bronze points, arrows, some bronze animals of the Polizzello type and some stylized bulls, such as those found in Sutera, are not rare.
Although having to reject as unacceptable, historically unproven and geographically absurd, the statements of Ortelio and Leandro, of Alberti and Massa that they wanted the ancient site of Camico in Cammarata and the palace of Cocalo, of Arezzo who believed they could identify it with Inico, by Matteo Selvaggio and Alessandro Adimari who wanted it to be built on the ruins of Camarina, it cannot be denied, especially on the basis of archaeological finds, that the thesis was UtatD3 ', in ancient times, from populations of primitive and Greek civilizations, in historical times, populations Greeks and Romans lived there, as the bronze objects inventoried by Paolo Orsi also attest.
The Biancorosso, which indicates the entry Kammarak as a Sican name, believes that the ancient undergrounds, which for three kilometers in circumference extend to the site where the two peaks of the mountain form the so-called Portella di S. Venere, three kilometers away from the underlying casale, are indications of pre-Hellenic dwellings, and precisely Sican, and even believes it possible the existence of Sican cities in the territory of the mountain itself. To corroborate his thesis, he therefore recalls the opinion of some scholars, that the name of Cammarata derives from "camara", which in Greek means vault, vaulted room or dome, with a round or oblong shape. It therefore places the origin of the name, in reference to the many flocks of its territory, including the most famous which, having its entrance at the western slopes, of Monte Lungo, in the vicinity of which the church of S. Elia stood, had its exit on the opposite side of the mountain, in the cave known as Acqua fitusa.
Unacceptable is the hypothesis of the Red White of the existence of the city so remote, and even more unsustainable, both from the historical and philological point of view, the thesis that its toponym may have Sican origins from Kammarak. Moreover, if it is still difficult to consider the origins of Cammarata over time, we cannot consider the opinions of historians extraneous to our consideration, which are matched by archaeological explorations, on and pre-Hellenic populations who inhabited Sicily. And in our case we know that the Sican populations, due to various historical or geological events, gathered particularly in central-western Sicily. It cannot be excluded, therefore, that the vast mountain and the territory, where Cammarata will rise, may have been inhabited by nuclei of Sican populations. The results of the limited archaeological explorations which, as we have said, await a scientific systematic, can begin to confirm us.
A historical continuity, in the age of Greek colonization and later of Roman occupation, in the territory of Cammarata, indicate the bronze objects inventoried by Paolo Orsi.
The numerous arcosolium tombs, located along the Tumarrano river, in the locality of Casabella, and along the national road Agrigento-Palermo, in the locality of Gilferraro still speak of Christian houses and stations. Of Byzantine populations, who lived in the territory of Cammarata, the existence of the two churches of S. Elia and S. Ventre are an indication, in addition to the many toponyms certainly of Greek origin that still remain today, such as Ancona, Ortusa and Lacona. one that rose on the mountain towards the southern part, and with its farmhouse the other on the eastern slopes of the mountain.
Some modern historians, including Abbot Amico,. The origin of Cammarata is attributed to the Muslims, others, and among these Cesare Pasca and Michele Amari, give the Norman town, not only in its foundation, but also in its toponym, putting it in relation with places in northern Italy of the same name, from whose populations, who came in the wake of Count Ruggero, would have been founded, as happened for other cities in Sicily.
Although the name of Cammarata appears for the first time in a document of 1141, the opinion of the Amari is not acceptable, not being endowed with the presence of so-called lumbaule colonies, in the citation, nor against the opinion of the Pasca, the name itself di Cammarata seems of Arab origin as Calvaruso rightly points out. In fact, Arab writers do not always report it in the same way because, if Zdrisi writes Quammàratah, Jakút instead calls it Quimratah, a clear sign that they transcribed a non-Arabic name. Furthermore, Jakút himself calls beled, that is village, Cammarata, while small town, fortress, village, fortress are indicated minor lands. The name of town could certainly not be attributed to a settlement in formation. The Arab writers, however, indicate the site and existence of Cammarata without adding any clarification on its origin. Possibly the primitive nucleus of the town, with its toponym, must have pre-existed the invasion of the Arabs, which explains how the name remained in their language and why one of Arab origin was not imposed on the town, like many others in Sicily. Another clue that supports our hypothesis is that during the Arab domination, since serious disputes arose between the peasants of the fiefs of Miccichè and Tunrarrano, experts and inter, Greek-speaking priests, were appointed from Cammarata. This demonstrates the existence of an inhabited center, to which the name corresponded
Of Cammarata and in which the Byzantine tradition was not completely extinguished, if the Greek language was still spoken by some. During the Arab period the territory of Cammarata had to undergo all the vicissitudes of that turbulent period of revolts and counter-revolutions, produced by the antagonism between the two main Muslim lineages that had conquered Sicily, namely those of the Arabs and the Berbers. Cammarata, placed as it was between Castronovo and Agrigento, had to follow the fate of the latter, who was at the head of the Berber populations that occupied the southern part of Sicily, and therefore be included in the domains of Hammúd, when Count Roger turned to eradicate the last Muslim states of the island. Conquered Agrigento, in 1087, and all the other castles in the area, even the castle of Cammarata fell under the conquest
Norman. In fact, the latest historical documents on Cammarata date back to the Norman era, when its territory was granted by Count Ruggero to his consanguineous Lucia, who in the remaining diplomas is called Domina Camaratae, Lucia de Camerata, Castelli Camerate dominatrix. It had to receive the feudal investiture of the territory and of the Castle at the beginning of the 12th century, keeping it until about the middle of the same century. From the aforementioned diplomas in which the farmhouses and properties that Lucia donated to the church of S. Maria that she built are also listed, it is clear that Cammarata must already have been a town, which possessed an extensive territory and a Castle with its own rights and prerogatives, if the Dominatrix, with the approval of King Roger, also granted the use of pasture and water in all the land pertaining to the territory of Cammarata.
Furthermore, in the Libellus de succione pontificurn Agrigenti it is remembered how since the reconstitution of the Agrigento diocese, which took place about the year 1093, a benefit had been constituted, among others, in the church of S. Nicolò di Cammarata, which became a prebend at the beginning of the thirteenth century . This proves that at the time of the Norman conquest the church of S., Nicolò existed and, recalling the tolerant spirit of the Arabs, one can also think that the church of S. Nicolò and the population gathered around it may be from the before the Normans.
Referring, therefore, to the Arab writers, who first remembered Cammarata, and to the diplomas of 1141, 1150, and 1153 published by the Pasca and taking into account that Count Roger, in establishing the feudal system in Sicily, had granted to his relatives vast territories of considerable importance, the territory granted to the noble Lucia could not be of little importance and consisted only of hamlets. These considerations also lead Di Giovanni to believe it is probable that the origin of Cammarata is anterior to Norman domination and also to Muslim domination. The Tirrito, to justify the attribution to the Normans of the foundation of Cammarata, poses as a possible hypothesis that the city, destroyed in the revolts by the Arabs themselves, was rebuilt and restored by the Normans.
The power over Cammarata was assumed by Aunt Lucia who, later, her son Adamo joined, who kept it until 1154. Cammarata, under the dominion of the mother and son, with its numerous hamlets around, had to expand and take a remarkable development; and its population also had to increase. It is not known what works Lucia did in the town, but it is certain that she was responsible for the construction of the temple of S. Maria, which was later called S. Maria di Caccia-thoughts. After the death of Lucia and her son Adamo, there are no longer any other works of the land of Cammarata which, probably when Lucia's family extinguished, had to be devolved to the royal state property, to whose dependence it had to remain for about a century. During this long period, no document reveals the historical events of Cammarata, until, after Sicily passed under the Swabian domination, from King Manfredi in 1257 the land of Cammarata, up to the Rocca called the stone of Amico, was granted to his uncle Federico Maletta, Head of the Kingdom.
Therefore, narrating the history of Cammarata up to the eighteenth century, with the exception of very short periods in which it enjoyed state-owned freedom, can be said to be only a sequence of men, the lords, who governed by sacrificing all human, social and economic needs for their own interest. In fact, it is a succession of investiture transfers, looting and donations, which leaves all other reasons closed, in order to make a monotony of names prevail. Disappeared, we must remember them, because they constitute a historical element linked to those lands, from which they remain far away, as they wanted to be when they were alive, as they often did not reside there.
Federico Maletta held the lordship of Cammarata only one arm, since in 1258 he died in a battle, near Erice to defeat some barons, who had rebelled against King Manfredi. After the death of Federico Maletta from a document given in Naples, which the Tirrito reports as unpublished, it seems that it was the lord of Cammarata Manfredi Lancia who, as the husband of Alberada, blood relative of King Manfredi, had obtained the lordship from the regent, wife of the King Manfred himself.
In 1263 Manfredi Maletta succeeded who, despite being related to the Swabians, sided with the Angevins and by Charles of Anjou, together with his other possessions, the land of Cammarata was confirmed to him. In 1269, as can be deduced from the aforementioned diploma of Naples, Cammarata, remembering its happy state as a state-owned city enjoyed during the reign of Frederick II, tried to pass to the royal state property. He made a request to the Angevin King, offering the Royal Curia a considerable donation that Charles accepted, promising to return the city to the royal state property, a promise that was not kept or that the winds of the Vespers did not allow to keep.
In 1286, in fact, after the revolt of the Vespers, in the lordship of Cammarata we find Manfredi Maletta, nephew of Federico, known as Manfreduccio, advisor of Federico d'Aragona. In 1299, after the battle of Capo d'Orlando, in which the Aragonese were defeated,
Maletta ceded his fortress of Paternò to Robert of Anjou, who was able to save himself for his betrayal to the Aragonese cause; he again tried Maletta to make Cammarata fall into Angioino's hands too, but he did not succeed. However, in 1300 the city approached the Angevins, when it had the promise to pass to the royal state property. Consequently, upon the arrival of the Caltabellotta space in 1302, Manfredi N'aletta, due to his betrayal, lost his property and with them the lordship of Cammarata, which was granted to Vinciguerra Palizzi by Frederick II of Aragon. He was of Norman origin and, in the fight against the Angevins, he had been one of the most determined and skilled supporters of the Aragonese. Palizzi also obtained feudal rights for his successors, who had to access the inheritance according to the jus francorum, that is, by male and female succession. On his death, in fact, the lordship of Cammarata in 1336 passed to his daughter Macalda, who had married Sancho of Aragon, natural son of Peter I, and who exercised power with him until his son Federico succeeded. The events of the long wars against the Aragonese and the need to have recourse to the barons had weakened the royal authority to the advantage of feudalism. This was acquiring more and more prestige, until, due to the weakness of the successors of Frederick II of Aragon, the jealousies and ambitions of domination caused the division of Sicily into two factions, the Latin, or national, headed by the Chiaramonte and the Palizzi, and the Catalan faithful to the Aragonese King. By joining Frederick of Aragon to the Catalan faction, in 1348 he was deprived of the lordship of Cammarata, which by King Ludovico was granted to Corrado di Aurea, or Doria, a descendant of the Genoese Ghibelline family, who had moved to Sicily following the first Aragonese kings . He held the power of the lordship even when in 1353, for the peace treaty between the two factions, it was established that each of the
barons were reinstated in the possession of their feudal goods. On the contrary, we know that Corrado di Aurea in 1355 welcomed and hosted for a few days in the Castle of Cammarata King Ludovico, who appointed him, for the services rendered to the king several times, Grand Admiral of the Kingdom.
Only after the death of Corrado di Aurea, in 1361, the lordship of Cammarata could be returned to the Aragon, taking the investiture in 1364 Vinciguerra Aragona, who obtained from King Frederick III the privilege of exercising every jurisdiction in his fiefs. The pomp with which he took possession of the lordship bordered on the royal one, and this could once again testify how in the face of royal weakness the baronial prerogatives contrasted, which badly hid the tyranny that oppressed the populations.
In 1384 Vinciguerra di Aragona was succeeded by his son Bartolomeo, who restored and renovated the Castle already existing at the time of the Norman, Lucia and considered among the forts of Sicily. Restored already in 1340 by Ottobono di Aurea who, it seems, had, at least for a short time before his brother Corrado, the land of Cammarata, Bartolomeo bastioni and the embankments of the southern part, of which the layout can still be seen, are probably due . On 10 July 1391 Bartolomeo di Aragona took part in the meeting of the Sicilian barons held in the church of San Pietro, in the territory of Castronovo, near the banks of the Platani.
In the political conduct of Bartolomeo di Aragona emerges one of the most interesting historical moments for Sicily, which can be said to bring consequences, which not only neutralized the political forces that had brought the Vespers and the consequent struggles for Sicily to maintain its own- autonomy but gave rise to that slow decline that, in partisan struggles and power disputes, had to cancel that unity, which originally had given the Norman conquest, to slip into that continuous decline that will lead Sicily to become a Spanish province. It thus emerges once again how the personal ambitions of the lords of Sicily not only enslaved those of the populations to their interests, but also mortified the historical traditions, which had brought Sicily to a unitary and advanced state.
Bartholomew of Aragon, who lived in the period in which, after the death of Frederick III the Simple, with the succession of his daughter Maria, the discords of the barons were ignited, although he had adhered to what was established in the Parliament of Castronovo in 1391 not to recognize King of Sicily Martino, who founded his claims to the Kingdom for having married Maria, it seems that even before the convocation of the Parliament he entered into a relationship with Martin, favoring his claims and receiving large promises of favors. Therefore, when Queen Maria and Martino came to Sicily in 1392 to take possession of the Kingdom, Bartolomeo di Aragona, with the two vicars Guglielmo Peralta and Antonio Ventimiglia, went to Favignana to pay homage to the sovereigns, to accompany them to Trapani. For his services he had from Martino kept his promises: he had reconfirmed the lordship of Cammarata, which was extended with the annexation of other territories, and obtained the office of Seneschal of the Kingdom.
As the hostilities of the barons rekindled against Martino, Bartolomeo di Aragona also participated in it and in 1393, due to his defection, he had taken away the lordship which passed to Pietro Queralt. From this moment on, Bartolomeo's fate was linked to the alternating fortunes of the Martins' cause. Using, once again, his double way of knowing how to take advantage of the moment in which the fortune of the Martins was favorable, he was able to obtain the pardon of his defection, being reinstated in 1396 in his possessions.
Bartolomeo di Aragona's loyalty did not last long because, in 1397, he again took part in the revolt against Martino, also managing to raise the population of Cammarata. The royal troops were sent against the rebel and the conquest of the Castle was entrusted to Bernardo Cabrera, where Bartolomeo had closed himself up for the designation of the Castle, where Bartolomeo had locked himself up determined to resist. Finally defeated and declared a traitor, he was forced to leave Sicily.
The lordship of Cammarata passed to the state property, and King Martino, with a diploma given to Noto on October 15, 1398, granted it to Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada. The inhabitants of Cammarata did not want to bow to the new lord and, instigated by the partisans of Bartolomeo di Aragona, took up arms and vigorously resisted the repeated attacks of the Moncada. King Martin, on December 5, 1398, sent his troops commanded by Giacomo Prades and Matteo Moncada, son of Guglielmo Raimondo, against Cammarata, from Sciacca where he was.
These, however, were unable to penetrate the town, which was validly defended by its natural position and by the castle, impregnable due to the power of the defensive works and the bulwarks that surrounded it.
The siege lasted so long that King Martin on April 7, 1400 gave Bernardo Cabrera the broadest powers to arm people and to collect taxes and tributes to provide for the conquest of the Castle of Cammarata, where the rebels had locked themselves up. The fight was fierce but, after three months of siege, Cammarata had to yield to Moncada, who entered it in early August. The country was subjected to looting and the supertest rebels were passed over to arms. The fall of Cammarata, or at least the decisive battle, most likely had to happen on 10 August 1400, because Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada, wanting to curry favor with the inhabitants, having restored and enlarged the mother church of S. Nicolò di Bari with three naves, he also wanted to erect a chapel in honor of S. Lorenzo, whose feast falls on August 10th.
It was he, or his son Matteo, or his nephew Guglielmo Raimondo, who succeeded him in the lordship of Cammarata in 1423, who endowed the town with a singular coat of arms and, in his intentions, offensive to citizenship. On a blue field we see a woman who, nursing two snakes, does not care for her children who lie at her feet; she is surrounded by the motto "alios nutrit, suos spernit". Someone wanted to see in the symbol and in the motto a reference to the character of the Cammaratesi, always ready to run after what is foreign; others, on the other hand, felt that it highlights their hospitality and generosity.
Knowing that the coat of arms was imposed on the Cammaratesi out of contempt and to make them ashamed of their relentless defense against the oppressor, without other interpretations it can, in its crude clarity, constitute an honor and a boast for the country. The coats of arms of many cities have been inherited by the lords who once dominated them, that of Cammarata, originating from a motif that recalls the struggle for freedom, can be considered among the emblems that have a link with the historical events of the population, and therefore deserves not to be forgotten.
No trace remains of the ancient monuments in which it was reproduced, because the public fountain in the square, on which it was carved, has long since disappeared and in 1812 the statue placed in the square in front of the church of S. Sebastiano was demolished. , reproducing the woman of the coat of arms, represented Cammarata. Then the Cammaratesi, believing they saw in that statue the symbol of the long centuries of servitude and misery, wanted the memory to disappear as well.
Another stone coat of arms was found on the façade of the church of S. Sebastiano and S. Rocco, because it was under the patronage of the University, so the municipal institute of the medieval age was called. It was torn up towards the end of the nineteenth century and the only memory of the ancient coat of arms of Cammarata remained at the foot of the panorama of the town, next to the Branciforte coat of arms, in a painting by Michele Lapis dated 1663, which represented S. Ignazio di Loyola and S. Francesco Saverio in the act of praying to the Madonna for the village at their feet. The Municipal Council, proudly recalling the historical origin of the ancient emblem of Cammarata, decided to adopt it as a coat of arms and make it stand out on the municipal banner.
The Moncadas also confirmed the privilege, obtained by Vinciguerra Palizzi, of taking possession of their lordship with a ceremony that took place with a procession, full of royal splendor, which from the palace reached the Mother Church. Matteo's son, Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada, was highly esteemed by King Alfonso of Aragon, who not only confirmed his paternal fiefdoms, but appointed him Grand Chancellor and Camerlengo del. Kingdom and in 1428 also Viceroy of Sicily. In the war that Alfonso fought for the succession to the throne of Naples, Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada with other barons supported the king with weapons, men and money, also following him in captivity when, after the naval battle of Ponza in August 5, 1435, he fell in the hands of the Genoese and was taken prisoner to the Vi-Discounts of Milan.
Alfonso of Aragon who, for the cultural and artistic renewal carried out in his court in Naples, was called the Magnanimous who in Sicily was a promoter of reforms of the judicial system, who in parliaments proclaimed the inalienability of places and state-owned prerogatives, greedy for money for his long and frequent wars, oblivious to the principles he himself affirmed, not only did he start that ruinous system of selling lands and privileges in favor of the Crown, but also gave the barons the right to adopt the same system. And so in 1431 even Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada, before following Alfonso in his Neapolitan enterprises, had obtained from the king the right to sell his goods and his fiefdoms and therefore in 1431 he sold to Giovanni Abatellis, with the barony of Motta S. Agata and the fortress of Pietra d'Amico, the lordship of Cammarata.
Giovanni Abatellis, who in the kingdom of Sicily was a leading figure, having held the office of President of the Kingdom, kept the lordship of Cammarata until 1452. Federico, who succeeded his father in 1453, was decorated by the king with the title di Conte, and Cammarata was elevated to County. In 1458 he sold the barony of Motta Sant'Agata to Antonio Monteleone, reserving, however, the right to buy it back, a right he exercised a few years later. In 1466 he was succeeded by his son Giovanni Francesco, who was Camerlengo of the kingdom of Sicily; in 1458 he passed on the County to his son Antonio, who confirmed the title of Count by King Ferdinand.
Antonio Abatellis, having no sons, declared his daughter Margherita, who married her paternal uncle Federico Abatellis, to the Con-tea. He received the investiture of Cammarata in 1503
and four years later, having obtained from King Ferdinand the faculty to establish new inhabited centers in his fiefdoms, he built a new town in a flat place near Cammarata, beyond the Turibulo river. Since on the spot there was a chapel dedicated to S. Giovanni, the new inhabited center took the name of S. Giovanni di Cammarata, later changed to S. Giovanni Gemini.
On the death of King Ferdinand the Catholic many Sicilian barons, including Pietro Cardona, Count of Collesano, and Federico Abatellis, Count of Cammarata, gathered in Termini and acclaimed King of Sicily Charles V of Habsburg. After the revolution of. Palermo, which forced the viceroy Ugo Moncada to take refuge in Messina, they decided to send the Cardona and the Abatellis to Brussels to ask the young sovereign to leave Moncada and appoint an Italian viceroy. The Moncada was replaced with the viceroy Ettore Pignatelli di Monteleone, but the Cardona and the Abatellis were forced to remain hostages with the Emperor.
If the viceroy was replaced who, on his arrival in Sicily, gave proof of not wanting to rage against the rioters, granting most of them forgiveness, and of wanting to quell the discontented by revoking the concessions and abuses of Moncada, the power remained in the hands of those same judges of the Grand Court, who were supporters of the Moncada. The situation of discontent did not cease, causing a revolt in Palermo in 1517, led by Gian Luca Squarcialupo. Organized with the intention of establishing free municipal constitutions in Sicily, it actually had the purpose of eliminating all the supporters of Moncada.
To excite the people to revolt Squarcialupo welcomed and spread the news that the counts of Collesano and Cammarata, held hostage in Brussels, had been executed: the conspiracy failed, that indeed Squarcialupo himself fell victim to an opposing aristocratic conspiracy and he was murdered. Many nobles therefore requested the return of Cardona and Abatellis and, in December 1518, the Parla-
Back in Sicily, the Count of Cammarata, in the Parliament of 1522, asked that the usual donation to be made to the king be paid only by the two ecclesiastical and baronial arms, and that the people be exempted. The viceroy, deeming the proposal demagogic and fearing that it could cause unrest, transferred the other sessions of Parliament to Messina. The Abatellis introduced himself there he is surrounded by a large number of armed men, and the viceroy, suspicious, had him arrested and sent him to Naples, where he was imprisoned in the fort of Castelnuovo.
Meanwhile, having discovered the conspiracy led by the Emperor brothers, who proposed to offer Sicily to King Francis I of France, the Abatellis was accused by a certain Leophant of being a member and, subjected to torture, confessed, although he later denied it. He was therefore sentenced to death and executed on 11 July 1523 in Milazzo, along with others. The heads of the conspirators, closed in iron cages, were hung on the walls of the Steri of Palermo and remained there until the eighteenth century: that of the Abatellis was, overnight, removed from the cage by a spirited young man, named Vincenzo Di Giovanni, and buried with the body.
While some fiefdoms were alienated from the conspicuous territory of Cammarata, with which those who had been loyal to him were gratified by Charles V, the only male heir of Count Federico Abatellis died. However, in 1528 by Charles V the county of Cammarata was returned to the only surviving daughter, Isabella, who kept it until her death, which also occurred immaturely. In 1531 Isabella Abatellis sold the County to Blasco Branciforte, who still alienated a large part of the territory.
In 1535 Margherita, widow of Federico Abatellis and mother of Isabella, after the death of her daughter, having remained the only heir of the Abatellis family, obtained from Charles V the faculty to claim the County. Blasco Branciforte, fearing to run into trouble with the Crown, for having arbitrarily alienated part of the territory of the County, and at the same time not wanting to lose the privilege, nominally renounced, but substantially, by marrying Margherita in 1536, he received the County as a dowry, of which in 1537 he received the investiture. Branciforte held various public offices and, among others, he held the position of stratigote of Messina and captain of arms of Agrigento and Trapani. He died in 1546 and his ashes were buried in the Mother Church of Cammarata, where his wife Margherita had a funeral monument erected.
From Margherita Abatellis Branciforte, who inherited all her feudal rights, in 1550 the County passed to her son Girolamo di lei. These for the notable positions in the Court and for his literary activity of himself, for which he is remembered by contemporary writers, and for his short life, he never visited the county of Cammarata. On his death in 1568, the County was administered by the widow Ippolita in the name of the eldest son Ercole who, having come of age, had full lordship of his land. The latter, with the intention of developing the center of S. Giovanni Gemini, whose foundation, as we have said, dates back to his ancestor Federico Abatellis, gave the town a legal system, with its own jurors, separating its territory from that of
Cammarata, obtaining from King Philip II that it was elevated to a duchy and receiving the title of duke in 1587.
In 1590 Ercole Branciforte was succeeded by his son Girolamo, who was lord of Cammarata until 1605 when, after his death, in the name of his son Francesco, who was only three years old at the time, his wife Caterina Gioeni took possession of the land. Having come of age, Francesco Branciforte governed wisely, paying particular attention to the administration of justice, from which he uprooted abuses and inconveniences, to protect in a particular way the humblest classes of his state and avoid the bullying of the most influential men. Therefore in August 1625 he issued a series of severe provisions, enjoining the officers of the two lands of Cammarata and S. Giovanni to strictly adhere to what he ordered. Although animated by good will, Francesco Branciforte was unable to satisfy the just needs of his people who, due to the sad economic conditions in which he lived, sought the opportunity to openly express his discontent. This occurred at the time of Giuseppe d'Alesi's revolution in Palermo.
Serious riots also took place in Cammarata, because the people were clamoring for the abolition of the taxes and a decrease in the price of bread. Not satisfied in their expectations, the Cammaratesi gave the revolt a different character and a new purpose: rather than economic improvements they wanted to escape the feudal dominion of the Branciforte and pass to the royal state property. They were therefore expelled i
representatives of Branciforte and Cammarata gave themselves their own municipal regulations, sending a delegation to the viceroy to obtain the longed-for passage to the state property. The viceroy did not want to accept the proposal and Francesco Branciforte, gathered a large number of armed men, managed to penetrate the castle in November 1647. It seems that he treated his people with generosity and that, having fled the leaders of the revolt, he did not rage on anyone. Thus, once again, the generous attempt of the people of Cammarata to achieve independence from feudal power to administer itself as a state-owned city failed.
In 1653, Francesco Branciforte was succeeded by Girolamo who, having died three years later, by testament ordered that the succession should be collected by his posthumous son, who would be born from his wife Luisa Moncada and Aragona. On 17 October 1656 Gaetana Maria was born and her mother, as guardian, held the investiture until 1669, when Gaetana Maria Branciforte married her uncle Ferdinando Moncada and Aragona, prince of Paternò, bringing him the duchy of S. Giovanni and the Cammarata county.
With their son, Guglielmo Raimondo Luigi Moncada Branciforte, the last feudal dynasty of Cammarata begins. He, having received the feudal investiture in 1680, held it until 1744. The eldest son Ferdinand having died, he was succeeded by the second son, Francesco Rodrigo, who held the two lands until his death in 1765. In this year Cammarata and S Giovanni passed to Giovanni Luigi Moncada, prince of Paternò, with whom the last Moncada Branciforte had had the closest ties of blood, and who held the two territories until 1812, when feudalism in Sicily was abolished.
The constitution of the fiefdom in Sicily, introduced by the Normans, put the island in a position of delay in the evolution that had changed the feudal structure of society in Italy, in order to move towards more free conditions of life. And since feudal dependencies conditioned Sicilian society for about six centuries, without wanting to neglect the various aspects that can be distinguished from the purest expression of the concept of fiefdom, it is indisputable that Sicilian society remained, and still remains today in some respects, burdened by characterizing influences that date back to the feudal condition.
We must recognize that the Constitution of 1812, particularly that part that abolished the feudal system, carried out one of the most important reforms, which can be noted in the history of Sicily. How much has been achieved in this reform and how much has been changed in the economy and in social life is difficult to say. Evidently, the rights of the feudal lord that limited the freedom of the people disappeared, the mere and mixed empire and other privileges that, through services, taxes and impositions, came to compose a society, in which the human work of the masses was mortified and exploited. by a privileged few.
The baron, placed at the lowest step of the feudal hierarchy, represented the immediate detachment between the people and the caste of privileges constituted hierarchically by the count, the marquis, and finally by the duke, the prince and the sovereign. These privileged ones exercised their government by adding together all the impositions, harassment and arbitrators, which fell on the populations.
The more demanding were the demands, the more the burden fell on the popular masses. The latent or obvious conflict, which nafree from legitimate reaction, it had, according to historical occasions, more or less open manifestations.
It was only at the beginning of the nineteenth century that the action of an autonomous bourgeoisie began to take shape, albeit confusedly, no longer a shield and support for noble privileges, both secular and ecclesiastical, but oriented towards the popular strata. The historical events that followed one another in 1812 are characterized by a harsh regime of exploitation and police, which had to feed in the Sicilian people those forces that brought about the fall of the Bourbons and validly prepared the Italian Unification.
Unfortunately, the life, the customs, the events of the people of Cammarata, by the historians who dealt with the town, were, for the most part, neglected to narrate almost exclusively the events that only interested the lords who held the dominion. Very little, therefore, can be said of the events that more properly concern the life of the people, over the course of the centuries, their repeated efforts to escape the feudal lordship and pass to the royal state property, the desperate defense of freedom and independence at the time. by Pietro Queralt and Bernardo Cabrera, the sufferings due to frequent plagues, famines and earthquakes, raids by armed gangs. Rarely the people could make his voice heard, as in the riots of 1647, and always had to yield to the will of his lords, who ruled him through governors and captains of executioners, and almost never participated directly in his life or interested in his needs.
For a few years, and sometimes for a few months, Cammarata was able to stand as a free municipality, with its own University, with its own statutes and freely elected jurors and this happened in 1282, 1349 and 1647 when, taking advantage of Sicilian political events, it tried to conquer independence or autonomy. They were attempts paid with the most generous blood, illusions impossible to realize, because the county of Cammarata, with its vast territory, was constantly a prey too coveted for the feudal lords of the time, who did not want to give up the fat income of its feuds and the innumerable rights and privileges that they could exercise and enjoy.
When, after the abolition of the feudal system, civic councils for municipal administrations could be convened, Cammarata 'also had its own, made up of 26 members. The first municipal magistrate was chaired by Gregorio Coffari who then, in 1819, was also the first mayor of the municipality. Following the royal decree of 11 October 1817, implemented however in 1819, which divided Sicily into administrations; districts and districts, Cammarata became the district capital.
Cammarata actively participated in the political events that took place on the island during the entire nineteenth century, but avoided, due to the peaceful and balanced nature of its inhabitants, riots and killings. In July 1820, as soon as they received news of the riots in Palermo, following his example and accepting his invitation, the inhabitants of Cammarata suspended the municipal and judicial administration and set up a provisional council with the task of maintaining order public and to administer the municipality. With the Palermo revolution ceased in September, the provisional council of Cammarata also had to dissolve and the old administration was returned.
In the events of 1848 the people of Cammarata participated in greater numbers and with greater commitment than in 1820. On January 28, 1848 a provisional revolutionary committee was formed, which assumed all the powers, prepared and directed all the political and military activities of the municipality. The National Guard was organized, which was divided into two companies that collected the guards belonging to the Piazza and San Vito districts respectively. The company of the commanded National Guard. by Vincenzo Coffari he distinguished himself for the skill with which, rushing to S. Giovanni Gemini, prey of popular riots, he managed to quell the unrest and avoid damage, so much so that he earned the applause and gratitude of the citizens, who wanted to celebrate the guards.
On July 16 the Civic Council was elected, which was made up of 47 members, while the Municipal Magistrate was made up of four jurors. According to the Constitution of 1812, only state-owned cities could send their own deputies to Parliament, while the others had to be represented by feudal lords, who retained the right of pariah. But the General Revolutionary Committee of Palermo extended the right to send deputies to Parliament also to the provincial capital cities and thus Carnmarata was able to elect Pietro De Angelis as its representative, who went to Palermo and actively participated in the work of the Parliament.
On 23 July 1848 a large mass of people gathered in front of the town hall and clamored for the replacement of the tax collectors of the mill tax who, in the past, had committed various abuses and bullying, a request that was accepted by the municipal magistrate. Cammarata participated in the Sicilian revolution of 1848, sending soldiers and provisions and generously contributing to the war expenses. Its churches and monasteries also contributed many gold and silver objects to the expenses of the army. For the loan of one million ounces, decreed by the Sicilian Parliament on December 30, 1848, Cammarata had assigned the share of 966 ounces which, divided among the richest families, was paid quickly.
With the Bourbon restoration the ancient institutions were restored, a new decurionate and a new mayor were elected and everything returned to the greyness of the previous life. But in 1860, at the first news of Garibaldi's landing, the people of Cammarata rose again and on May 16 a provisional committee was formed, which elected Pietro De Angelis as president, who also assumed command of the National Guard, which was divided in four companies with a hundred members each.
During these events various and serious disorders occurred: on the night of Corpus Domini a national guard, Paolino Di Marco, was killed in Cammarata. More serious were the riots that took place in S. Giovanni Gemini where, as soon as the landing of Gari-baldi in Marsala was known, the house of the receiver of the mill, Francesco Paolo Carta, was set on fire. To restore order and calm, the intervention of the National Guard of Cammarata was ready which, with about 300 men, under the command of Pietro De Angelis, uHe accomplished another mission by going in December 1860 to S. Stefano Quisquina, where fires, massacres and popular riots had occurred, restoring tranquility. Even earlier, De Angelis, at the head of a team from Cammarata, on behalf of the Governor of the province of Agrigento, had carried out similar peacemaking missions in the municipalities of Bivona, Alessandria della Rocca, Cianciana, Lucca Sicula, Villafranca, Burgio and S Biagio Platani, making himself appreciated everywhere for his vigor in leadership and the sense of justice that guided his actions. These missions, entrusted to the National Guard of Cammarata, were not of little interest and usefulness, compared to the military and political events that took place in Sicily at that time, because they ensured order and justice. The citizens of Cammarata also participated directly in the memorable events of 1860: several enlisted in the Garibaldian army aggregated mainly in the Badia Battalion of the Etna Hunters. Then, when the plebiscite was held in October, the population of Cammarata voted solidly for Italian Unification.
In the decades that immediately followed the Unification, Cammarata also suffered from the crisis of trade and the lack of public security; Cammarata also felt the disappointment of a government that was not interested in the conditions of the popular classes, in short, of the discontent that weighed on Sicilian society in the last forty years of the nineteenth century and which exploded in the uprisings of the Sicilian Fasci. A section of the Fasci dei Lavoratori was established in Cammarata on 1 October 1893, but it lasted very short, because on 13 January 1894 it was dissolved by the authorities.
In Cammarata, however, on that occasion and in the following years, the calm and order were never disturbed, both for the peaceful nature of its inhabitants, as for the relatively discrete conditions of agriculture, which was the main source of life and work for the great majority of citizens. Skilled administrators brought the municipal budget to a real prosperity, also managing to carry out many public works, the paving of several roads, the construction of retaining walls in the town and the water network.
At the end of the century, however, there was no lack of mass emigrations in Cammarata to more generous lands, before the French conquest, to Tunisia, and then to the Americas, especially the United States. In the events of this last century of national unity, Cammarata is present with the contribution of blood and heroism, with the active participation of many of its citizens in the political, administrative and cultural life of the Nation.
Cammarata does not have ancient monuments and the palaces of the noble families of the past are now destroyed. Even the Castle is largely ruined: part of the ancient construction remains
the southern wing, converted into a judicial prison, and the dismantled ruin of one of the ancient towers, which still seems threatening in the rough cut of its profile. Very few historical indications remain for an architectural reconstruction, even an ideal one, of what the Castle could have been, which, however, historians indicate to us as strongly impregnable. Built on the steep and steep cliff, the ring-road walls leaned against it as a defensive system, equipped with seven large towers and on which the Guagliarda, Soprana and Porticella gates opened. From these towers and on these gates Bartolomeo d'Aragona with his partisans, in the extreme attempt to maintain his lordship, resisted the siege of the troops of Bernardo Cabrera, for over three months, together with the population of Cammarata, who refused to welcome the new lords, the Moncadas. Of the ancient denominations the tradition remains in the names of Castello and Guagliarda, while of the others that indicated the districts that made up the city in its division
of the lower, middle and upper parts, the memory has also been lost.
In the lower part of the town, probably called Gianguarna with a word of Arab origin, stands the church of the Annunziata, originally dedicated to S. Maria degli Infermi. It preserves unchanged, at least in the 16th century pronaos, the ancient architectural forms. This opens with a large pointed arch, which serves as an elevation to the church; on the right side there are two other pointed arches, resting on columns surmounted by pulvini, decorated with symbolic sculptures. A square-shaped one has recently been built on the old bell gable. Attached to the church stood the Benedictine monastery; built in the fifteenth century by Count Abatellis, at the end of the eighteenth century it was destroyed by a landslide, which fortunately spared the church.
The interior of the church, with one nave, is decorated with fine eighteenth-century pure gold stuccoes. On the wall of the internal façade of the church you can still see an ancient fresco that is barely decipherable, which perhaps represents the Coronation of the Virgin. There is a large canvas depicting the Penitent Magdalene attributed to the school of Guido Reni, coming from the homonymous ruined church, another eighteenth-century canvas depicting the Annunciation of the Virgin and artistic wooden statues, such as that of the
Madonna Annunziata and that of S. Giacomo Apostolo, coming from the church that was dedicated to him. The most precious image for the Cammaratesi is that of the Crucifix, called della Pioggia, linked to a prodigious story, which is entrusted to us by tradition and reported by Domenico Di Marco.
The story dates back to 1751, when some Burgetans, who were carrying an image of the Crucifix made in Palermo, were forced to stop in Cammarata and take shelter in the church of the Annunziata due to the raging storm. The rain stopped prodigiously when the Crucifix was introduced into the church and that
prompted the Burgetans to resume their journey. Suddenly the sky darkened and a more violent storm broke out with such showers of rain that the image of the Crucifix was brought back to the church and placed on the high altar. The repeated attempts of the following days were unsuccessful and then the divine will became clear. The Benedictine nuns of the monastery, annexed to the church, endeavored to find the sum requested as compensation by the Burgetans, so that the Crucifix would remain in their church, and Providence manifested itself in a young nun, who had been denied profession because she was blind. Accepted to her solemn vows, the Crucifix was purchased with her dowry, which manifested her first miracle on her young nun, giving her sight again.
Another prodigy the tradition highlights, which explains the elongated position of the legs of Christ, not common in the canons of sculptural art, which usually reproduce Christ with the legs contracted up. After the solemn thanksgiving services in the small church of the Annunziata, all the faithful and nuns approached the venerated Crucifix to kiss it. Not being able to have a nun because of her small stature, he prayed with such fervor that she too would be allowed to put her lips on Christ's tortured feet, that her legs lengthened, remaining in that position, in which we can admire him today. .
The most important sacred building in Cammarata is the Mother Church, dedicated to S. Nicolò di Bari. Destroyed by a fire in 1624, in its present form it dates back to 1640. It stands in place of the ancient matrix, which has been talked about since XII century and which, in the following centuries, was enlarged and embellished by the Moncada family. The interior of the church with three naves, supported by eight columns with an octagonal dome, is decorated with several works of high artistic value.
On the first altar on the right there is a statue of S. Calogero and a canvas, a work of 1663 by Michele Lapis, depicting S. Ignazio di Loyola and S. Francesco Saverio in the act of praying to the Madonna.
in favor of Cammarata, represented at their feet in its characteristic landscape. As we have said, this painting is decorated, at the bottom, with the coats of arms of Cammarata and the Branciforte. On the altar of S. Crispino there is a canvas by an unknown author, which depicts, with impressive movement and drama, the Martyrdom of Saints Crispino and Crispiniano.
The last altar of the right aisle is decorated with a 1625 canvas by Pietro d'Asaro, known as the Monocolo di Racalmuto, which depicts St. Anna with St. Joachim next to it. The Saint sits in the central part of the picture, but the point of convergence is the Virgin Maiden, towards which a man advances with his arms laden with chains,
which wants to depict the liberation of a Moncada Branciforte. In the background you can see a magnificent landscape, rich in tones and fantastic lights, crowned by a waning group of angels, and in the foreground a basket with sliced fruits and lemons, in which the very particular skills of Racalmutese shine in representing still lifes.
A clay statue, which is believed to be a work of the sixteenth century, depicts the Madonna dei Miracoli: the statue is closed in a precious wooden case gilded in pure gold, in the shape of a Brarnantesque temple, adorned with valuable paintings, reproducing evangelical scenes and coats-of-arms of the Branciforte. The altar of the Sacrament, which in its present form dates back to the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, contains four rounds of the 17th century depicting the Evangelists and a delicate wooden Agnus Dei, the work of the sculptor La Bella.
On one wall of the choir, and precisely in the tribune facing the organ, there is a canvas dated 1585, depicting the Most Holy. Trinity and Paradise according to the vision that St. Paul had of it. The precision of the drawing, the aerial beauty of the landscape, the magnificence of the color, the variety of the characters' attitudes, the originality of the scenic composition, which presents St. Paul in ecstasy in the foreground and the Trinity above, the sweetness of the faces angelic, the preciousness of the details make us think of an uncommon and non-provincial artist, on whom the influences of the great Italian and Flemish pictorial schools passed not in vain: the attribution of the work remains unknown. In place of this canvas there was once a painting, reproducing the Destruction of Jerusalem by Tito with the depiction of countless crucifixes contorting in the torments of death.
On the main altar you can admire another large canvas depicting the SS. Trinity of the eighteenth-century school. Scarcely original in the upper part, while in the lower part, in which the patron saints of the country are grouped, it acquires, in the expressive face of some of them, a certain originality. In the first altar of the left aisle you can admire a wooden half-bust of the XVIII century, depicting St. Nicholas of Bari, main patron of Cammarata, majestic in the expression of the face and in the blessing gesture.
In the left aisle you can admire the magnificent marble altar, the work of Andrea Mancino who worked on it in 1490. It was built by Antonio and Isabella Abatellis as the altar of the Chapel of the Sacrament, where it remained at least until the reconstruction of the church, after the fire of 1624. The magnificent ciborium gathers, in an admirable theological and artistic synthesis, around the tabernacle, flanked by angels and surmounted by a canopy, the Evangelists and the Fathers of. Church who expounded, deepened and divulged the Eucharistic mystery, of which therefore they are like the authorized witnesses. But also the Prophets, placed on small columns, testify in favor of the Eucharistic reality that they glimpsed.
Since all the Christian mysteries relive in the Eucharist, two high-reliefs represent the Birth of Jesus and the Crucifixion, while on two columns are placed the figures of Mary and the Angel, which gives her the announcement of her divine motherhood; above all the blessing God the Father dominates. On the sides of the ciborium there are some angels holding the curtain, but the upper part of the curtain is missing: some fragments of it are on the ground floor of the bell tower. Mancino's food-rio is monumental and artistic, and even if it cannot be compared to the formal perfection of his other later works, it deserves to be appreciated, especially for the admirable synthesis that gathers the greatest Christian mysteries around the Eucharist.
In the light of the last two arches of the central nave, a magnificent wooden pulpit in the Baroque style, but not overloaded, solemn and imposing, rises on the left side and, in front of it, a seat with a high back, surmounted by one shield with the double-headed eagle, known as the Jurors' Bank, where the University jurors, the mayor, the captain of justice and the secret sat when, officially, they participated in the sacred rites.
In the sacristy of the Mother Church and in the rooms below there are other valuable paintings, among which a Pietà on wood, of the sixteenth century school, coming from the ancient church of the Compagnia dei Bianchi, excels. Originally it was to constitute a single table; today, however, the figures are seen separated because the table was sawn. They represent the Madonna holding her dead Son, Joseph of Arimatea and Nicodemus, St. John and the Magdalene holding a vase of perfumes.
In the sacristy there are also precious silver sacred vessels, a gilded wooden tabernacle with a beautiful painting on the back of the door, and. the sacred garments, some of which are valuable not only for their beauty and their artistic value, but also because they were woven, in very vague designs with gold and silver threads, in the monastery of S. Domenica di Cammarata. Therefore, they represent a testimony of the skills of local craftsmanship which, in the past, distinguished itself in weaving works, as is also documented in the Pitrè Museum in Palermo. In the room below the sacristy there is a beautiful canvas depicting the
The church of S. Domenico dates back to 1509 and stands in place of the ancient church and hospice of S. Antonio Abate, which Federico Abatellis had ceded to the Dominicans in 1170, who built the church and convent there. The church, destroyed by fire in 1913, was rebuilt in the years 1931-34. Inside the church there are various works of art: a statue of S. Vincenzo Ferreri, a work of the Bella of the eighteenth century, a statue depicting the Madonna Addolorata by Giacomo Li Volsi of the seventeenth century, a statue of the Madonna del Rosario dated 1623, and finally a beautiful statue of the sixteenth century depicting S. Antonio Abate. Also noteworthy are two canvases depicting one S. Caterina and the other S. Hyacinth of the sixteenth-century school, and two paintings depicting the Madonna di Monserrato and S. Domenico di Guzman, one by Carlo Lo Presti dated 1525
and the other work by Vincenzo Lo Presti dated 1628.
Almost in the center of the village, in the place formerly known as the Meriggio, stands the church of S. Domenica virgin and martyr, perhaps on the spot where an ancient church of the same title once stood. It from the fifteenth century
belonged to the confraternity of S. Filippo di Argirò, but towards the middle of the 18th century it was ceded to the Benedictines, who founded the new convent in the annexed premises intended to replace that of the
the Annunziata, now unsafe, and which ruined, as we have said, due to a landslide. In the church there is a beautiful inlaid marble altar of the seventeenth century, a monstrance with coral ornaments,
a frontal in silver and copper with a background of red velvet and other valuable works.
Since the 16th century, the church of S. Vito, known as parish and gangia from ancient documents, was a branch of the Mother Church. The church has three naves, but it does not preserve artistic works of particular importance, with the exception of an ancient canvas depicting S. Placido and the statues of S. Giuseppe and S. Francesco di Paola del Bagnasco.
On the top of the hill, where the town climbs, overlooking the town, the church of S. Maria di Cacciapensieri dominates, like a royal crown, the vast surrounding landscape, from the luxuriant valley of
vegetation in the wooded chains of the Madonie. The history of Cammarata is closely linked to the tradition of the Madonna di Cacciapensieri and to the origins and events of the Sanctuary of her. In fact, the name of Cammarata, as we have said, is found for the first time mentioned in the document of 1141, in. which speaks of the construction of the primitive church by the will of normantia. Lucia, who. from Ruggero he had received the Castle of Cammarata with the hamlets of the vast territory.
The church was built, therefore, in the 12th century, in a different location than the present one, and precisely in the valley between the mountain and the cliff, close to which the town stretches. There remains no news of the style of the church, but the same document informs us that it was "ornamentis ornata" and that by the generous founder it had been endowed with vast revenues consisting of numerous fiefdoms and hamlets, sufficient for the cult of the Virgin and the care of a church of royal patronage. The church, in fact, consecrated with a solemn rite by the archbishop of Bari, since its foundation had been ceded to the Bishop of Cefalù, who also held political dominion over the inhabitants of the territory of the church.
Around the church of S. Maria was built, by the will of Lucia herself, a farmhouse which was originally called the church house and which then changed its name to the hamlet of S. Lucia. This church, which in 1428 was sold to the Friars Minor, who built their convent annexed to it, remained buried, with the precious treasure that historians believe, having suddenly collapsed in the seventeenth century. The plaster statue of the Madonna di Cacciapensieri remains of the primitive church, whose history is indicated to us by two traditions, but which could be the one overlapping and the completion of the other.
A tradition, which finds its completeness in the construction of the church by the Norman Lucia, tells that, after the Muslims were defeated by Ruggero, the sacred image was found
by his soldiers in the hollow of a cliff. According to the Tirrito the founder fulfilled, with the construction of the temple, a vow in memory of the danger incurred by Ruggero, when the storm was pushed to the beaches of Cefalù, where Ruggero himself built the grandiose temple and restored the bishop's seat.
Popular tradition tells us that the Sacred image was found within the limits of the fiefs of Capansera, Viviano and S. Angelo, belonging today to the municipalities of S. Biagio Platani, Cammarata and S. Giovanni Gemini. The commonality of the right to belong to the statue caused discord, until it was decided to entrust its possession to fate. They were tied to a cart of wild bullocks and the image was placed on the cart. With great trepidation of the population, the bullocks began their journey up Mount Cammarata.
At a quarter of a mile, before starting the climb, the bullocks stopped and the event is commemorated on the spot by a stone, known as the Madonna. Resuming their journey, the animals stopped in front of the ancient church of S. Lucia, where the statue was placed, which from the Capansera fiefdom took the title of the Madonna di Cacciapensieri.
The Sacred Image, mselgt- to be removed from the iconoclastic persecution that began in 726. with Leo Isauric, when Sicily was under Byzantine rule, was brought to light and to the cult of the faithful after 787, the year in which the persecution ended . This tradition, therefore, which places the farmhouse and the church as already built, takes us to times long before the arrival of the Norman, Lucia. The tradition continues that, having renewed the persecution of sacred images in the year 813 by Leo the Armenian, the image was once again subtracted from the iconoclastic fury, burying it in a small church where two torches and two oil lamps were left lit . There she remained hidden for a century, that is, until the year 913,
year in which the persecution had already ceased, when a man born blind, attracted by the clear light, led the faithful to a second discovery.
Di Marco doubts the date of 913, considering it to be the least reliable to the discovery of the image, since this date corresponds to the time in which Sicily was dominated by Muslims and against them a rebellion had ignited, to which he had Cammarata also participated. With this argument he wants to validate the hypothesis of the merging and completion of the two traditions and that the second discovery of the image took place in the Norman era and probably in the place where Lucia, having learned of the local tradition, had the church built.
The current church, with the adjoining convent, was built in the second half of the eighteenth century and was frequently restored in the following centuries, up to modern times. The new church, which did not meet the expectations of the religious and the faithful, and due to its small size and modest decorations, is still considered one of the most beautiful in the country.
On the main altar, in polychrome marble adorned with bas-reliefs in gilded wood, in a niche is the venerated image of the Madonna di Cacciapensieri. The ancient statue was half-length, while today it is offered for worship in its full figure, and its execution cannot date back to before the 16th century. Devoid of significant artistic merits, for the gentle attitude with which she fondles the Child and the celestial gaze, Caruso Alimena judged her worthy of an artist sent from heaven. The Madonna di Cacciapensieri is still reproduced in the vault of the church: it depicts the Virgin in the act of healing the wound made by the devil, in the form of a bull, to the blessed Giovanni Clemente da Cammarata.
Also the other marble statue of the Madonna della Neve, due to the artistic workmanship attributed to Antonello Gagini, probably comes from the ancient church. Of the brothers Rosario and Girolamo Bagnasco there are two valuable statues, which respectively represent one S. Pasquale Baylon executed in 1844, and the other S. Antonio di Padova executed in 1815. In the sacristy is kept, coming from the treasure of the ancient church, a silver pyx.
In the history of Cammarata, except for the few times when his people were able to make his voice heard and express their desire for freedom, there are no major events of regional and national significance. Far from the main roads, located inside Sicily, the country could not participate in the great history, if not marginally. Nevertheless, it has entered the history of civilization, with its most illustrious sons who contributed, with their work, to the spiritual progress of man, to his moral and cultural improvement. He can therefore be proud of his children who, in art, philosophy, theology, law, ascetics and sciences, with words and writings, certainly benefited the life of the Sicilian people and the homeland, improving their customs, cultivating their wits and educating them in the search and conquest of truth and goodness. Since it is not possible to remember them all, we will limit ourselves to indicating the most important, especially those whose work, going beyond the borders of the hometown, radiated beneficial not only in Sicily, but also in Italy and in the world.
Usually it is neglected to remember the men who, for the sanctity of their life, the irradiation of their example, the fruits of their teaching and their preaching, nobly influenced the people, improving their customs and life. Cammarata, in fact, has the glory of being the birthplace of many religious, whose action had a large influence on the life and customs of the people.
When, after the battle of Benevento, Matteo Novello da Termini, who had already been a judge at the court of King Manfredi, decided to retire from political life and become a religious among the Augustinians, he was welcomed into the order by Blessed Pietro da Cammarata di we remember the holy life. Among the religious of the Friars Minor, for his great
holiness, we must remember the Blessed Giovanni Clemente, who died around 1560. From the Madonna di Cacciapensieri she had various and continuous proofs of maternal assistance, especially when the devil, taking the form of
bull, attacked him during the long nights spent in prayer before the ancient simulacrum. This sacred legend is depicted, as we have noted, in the vault of the church of the Madonna di Cacciapensieri. The Venerable Francesco Bruno, born in 1564 and died a Franciscan lay friar in Burgio in 1614, belongs to the Minor Observants, of whom the Mongitore in the Sicilian Library recalls the rigor and sanity of life.
Among the Capuchin Fathers, besides Father Girolamo, born Alessandro Caruso, who lived between the 16th and 17th centuries, whose stories tell a long life full of virtues and miracles, we particularly remember Father Giuseppe Taverna and Father Bernardo. Giuseppe Taverna, born in 1599, composed several works of linguistics, liturgy, eloquence and above all asceticism, which deserved various editions also abroad. The famous preacher Bernardo da Cammarata, born in 1629 and died in 1711, wrote a work, which has remained manuscript, De 'places of the Capuchin Friars Minor, a precious work as a source of the history of the order.
Men of profound doctrine also lived among the Dominican Fathers of Cammarata. Father Maurizio De Gregorio, who lived in the seventeenth century, stands out for his vast doctrine and the high offices he holds.
Member of several academies, he wrote numerous works on various subjects, mainly of a philosophical and theological character, including the Laconic Commentary on the Summa contra Gentes of St. Thomas.
Francesco Dispensa, jurisconsult of the seventeenth century, acquired a wide reputation as a poet in Latin and Italian: he collected his compositions in a volume entitled Rhymes and verses and also wrote a tragedy entitled St. Catherine the Virgin and martyr. Like studios
In the 19th century, the brothers Luigi and Nicolò Castellana stood out, particularly in the field of medicine. The first, during the cholera of 1837, did his utmost with generosity and self-denial in favor of the sick and, from his experiences, he obtained a precious material, which he used for the composition of a treatise entitled: Clinical proposals on Cholera morbus. He had already published other studies and dissertations in the field of medicine and on other philosophical and didactic topics. Luigi Castellana was also a professor of philosophy in the municipal school, but in 1848 he was exonerated from the two positions of doctor and professor for political reasons. He was later readmitted to his office with the Bourbon restoration. Nicolò Castellana taught surgical surgery at the University of Palermo, where in 1860 he was director of the military hospital. Among his numerous scientific writings, we remember the Lessons of general anatomy, that is the organism and its laws and the Discourses and medical letters.
We still have to remember another doctor esteemed for his culture and for his activity: Giuseppe Biancorosso. Not only did he bring notable contributions to science with various articles and writings, but above all he is known for his work as a local historian. Biancorosso, in fact, following the example of Tirrito and Di Giovanni, in 1894 began to publish a monograph on Cammarata and S. Giovanni Gemini in which, with great skill and patience as a historian, he tried to reconstruct the events of the two municipalities. Unfortunately the work was not published in its entirety and the Biancorosso's manuscript itself has been lost.
In the nineteenth century and in the first decades of the twentieth other illustrious men flourished in Cammarata, such as the dialect poet Emanuele Longo, the moralist Vito Mangiapane and the philosopher Giuseppe Cacciato, who deserved widespread appreciation and kept high the cultural traditions of the country, in which since eighteenth century studies had developed considerably. In fact, in addition to the schools of the convents, from 1775 on the initiative of Pietro Panepinto, schools of humanity and rhetoric arose in Cammarata, to which those of grammar and philosophy were later added.
It is not without a particular reason that, after having narrated the history and illustrated the monuments, we believe to dwell on the renewal policy that Cammarata undertakes. This study is part of the contribution that the "Countries of Sicily" series wants to give not only to a more particular knowledge of Sicily, but to a cultural debate which, on a modern and efficient basis, identifies the real needs that, free from any rhetoric, may be indicative to those who, wishing to propose solutions, do not become constrained in decisions that sometimes remain far from reality. Many reasons that have engaged the economy and politics of this last century, with regard to Sicily, have already had their day and they, or have brought solutions, and therefore have fallen due to the emergence of new needs, or stop again to the external aspect of the causes, without removing their origins.
We can say that the main problem of Sicily, and not only Sicily, is the reconstitution of the municipality, not only as an administrative body, but as a social and economic community, which finds in its own abilities the possibility of facing problems to achieve a more orderly individual, collective and administrative living. It is necessary for each community to identify its own physiognomy, whose characteristics it jealously guards, presenting itself as an ordered and qualified cell in the broadest order.
ethnic and social, so as to constitute a balance in an atmosphere of civil expansion: a progressive and vital dynamic, in which the pride of belonging to the community rests on social and economic values, which originate and are reflected in every citizen.
We have had another occasion to dwell on this topic, but in dealing with Cammarata today we want to indicate a rare example of a modern and shrewd politics which, without hiding the real situations, has faced the problem of the structural renewal of the community. We refer to a publication by Raffaello Rubino, Al Lavoro per Cammarata, which we could call the White Book of many municipalities in Sicily. An analysis which, starting from the bureaucratic and administrative reorganization, focuses on the various problems to be faced, in order to move towards a stimulating action and perspectives adhering to the environmental reality; a reality that moreover finds resonance in many other collectivities, which remain
motionless in a centuries-old expectation, without yet being convinced that the most effective solutions are always those expressed by forces, which find the cooperation of all citizens, that cooperation that reconciles each individual expectation in achieving the common good.
The Ruby, at the end of the chapter Function of the municipality and spirit of work, identifies community life as follows: "And if we are administrators, we must repeat ourselves every morning that we go to the municipality
not to do our small interest, to usurp the assets of the Municipality, but to work in favor of others. If we are employed we must repeat every morning that the money we receive every month (even if little) is the consideration for a job that we have to do and for which the real judge is not the head of the office or the town clerk, but our conscience. Whenever we have made poor people wait in front of our offices, or we have treated poor illiterate women rudely, or we have not given an answer to a practice for which a job is delayed or worse, certainly our conscience will not be calm. And if we are municipal guards we must repeat every morning that a clean country is a beautiful thing or we must work seriously to make it become one, carrying out our duty conscientiously, applying the laws without favoritism and without rancor. And if we are municipal councilors of the majority or of the opposition it does not matter, we must make a contribution of work, of proposals and not of gossip or sterile criticism in the square or in the alley. And if we are only citizens we must cooperate in this effort to change the environment, so that hope may grow, be nourished in the commonality of efforts, so that a community spirit brings us all together and brings us together to achieve the common good ”.
We now focus in particular on what has been achieved or planned, so that Cammarata, in the reorganization of its internal functionality and in the plan to stimulate prospects for the future, takes on the characteristics of an advanced community, capable of ensuring its own social and economic well-being. The reorganization of administrative bureaucracy has solved long-standing problems that include public education, civil infrastructures, sport, health, tourism and other civil services.
A complex of educational establishments, ranging from kindergarten to compulsory schools and vocational training institutes and centers, can be said to ensure the younger generations of Cammarata the opportunity to acquire a satisfactory average cultural level, the first premise for a society in civil progress.
Furthermore, the establishment of a school clinic, a small park for children in the municipal villa, a sports field, an indoor gymnasium and a bowling green are validly inserted in this social policy, which will certainly benefit the next generations. An organic approach, therefore, to one of the most long-standing social problems, which should be pointed out as an example, since in its completeness it presents a coordinated and articulated solution. A library and a study room will complete this very important sector of the dissemination of culture.
As regards civil infrastructure works, the problems to be faced are complex and diverse. What distinguishes the action in this sector, whose problems have been dragging on for centuries, presenting conditions of lack of basic services for the life of a population, is its organic approach. The water supply which, although in an area rich in water, was scarce
and the distribution network, bound in the long-standing aspirations of a community, today constitute a reality that will make those populations forget the long burning and waiting in the public fountain. Thus the sewer system, this primary and indispensable service of a community, was bound in a foul-smelling wait spell. Even for the citizens of Cammarata the time has come for the drains to flow into the closed sewers, putting an end to a degrading discomfort, no longer tolerable by a civilized population.
In Cammarata, the problem of internal roads is aggravated by the topographical situation of the town which develops on a ridge of the mountain, unfolding almost like a ribbon, making it necessary to have retaining walls and bastions. An example of viability that is repeated in many municipalities of Sicily and that has given us the opportunity to complain about the inconvenience that the population has to endure, if decisive modernization works are not faced. The realizations already operated in this sector, those in progress and those in planning will give a new and organic structure to the Cammarata road network, relegating to the past the squalid dusty or muddy roads that give a gray and melancholy aspect.
The topographical position will be favored, promising development of renewal and building increase, which will not only make life easier for the inhabitants, but will contribute to a more welcoming tourist development. In fact, with its reorganization and the putting in order of essential services, Cammarata can be said to open the doors to a residential tourism that is not evasive, but relaxing, which today finds its most favorable moment both nationally and internationally.
The territory of Cammarata extends particularly on the 1580 m high mountain. s. m. with its woods, its springs, its fresh air and the vastness of the landscape. The pine forest, a tourist destination for many visitors, is already a natural pole of attraction, which will certainly increase with the construction of a refreshment post at 1100 m a.s.l., in the Caddeddi district. This first measure, with the creation of a better reception, will certainly bring wider initiatives, which should contribute to the formation of a mountain village, in which the public initiative favors and encourages the private one. Obviously, to carry out this plan for the tourist enhancement of the mountain, infrastructure works are needed to make the stay easier.
Cammarata for its position, for the varied beauty of its landscapes and the vastness of the old and new woods, can offer pure and fresh air, silence, peace of the fields, fresh water, a purifying encounter in contact with nature. An active propaganda, which also highlights the characteristics of the town with its steep winding streets, the stairs, the patios, the aerial squares, the picturesque views that give it the appearance of the primitive, intact in the incessant flow of life and time, it could also attract tourist currents, which begin to move away from conventional and sophisticated attractions, to prefer places where natural beauty meets the simplicity of the environment.
The Pro Loco of Cammarata is called to promote plans and initiatives, which must not sterilize itself in occasional events, even effective ones, but must particularly carry out a policy of approaching and enhancing the mountain. In the conference of the Sicilian Pro Loco held in Milazzo, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism illustrated the fundamental importance of these institutions, made up of citizens linked by a common love of their native land. Dwelling particularly on an essential aspect of Italian tourism on a European level, he indicated the opportunity to establish residential centers for the Nordic regions of Europe, which wish to spend their days enjoying the Sicilian sun.
He particularly referred to those who, having already completed their work existence, wish to spend the rest period of their life comforted by a desire, which is also a physiological need, to live in the warmth of this Sicily. He underlined this immense patrimony that we enjoy, the sun, but which remains fruitless in a choice that has not yet taken place.
Residential tourism, which meets these particular needs, needs infrastructure works that create a comfortable and high-level civil environment. The dream of thousands of workers, who have spent a lifetime of work in the northern regions of Europe, cannot be mortified by an environment which, although favored by nature, is not sufficiently equipped on a civil and social level, to which they are accustomed those populations.
There are forms and forms of tourism and it is not wrong to say that the most valid one must offer distraction and rest. From an economic point of view, seasonal tourism is much less advantageous than residential tourism. An in-depth analysis of whether a residential center for foreigners can be built in the modernization program in Cammarata is beyond the scope of these studies: the answer can be given by
special study and contact committees. But every renewal plan, if it is to be productive, cannot fail to respond to the various possibilities. It is, however, necessary to remember the planned points, so that they can find the possibility of implementation in Sicily.
The young Pro Loco of Cammarata does not delay in the occasional events, but approaches these complex problems, which from small suggestions to large initiatives are the most efficient reasons, to transform love for the homeland into social and economic values. Each event is a call to wider programs; so the feast of the Mountain of Cammarata represents a launch event to make known the beauties of that vast area, still closed to the general public and mortified
the insufficiency of infrastructural works.
The wooded complex of Cammarata in recent decades has undergone notable developments, which are validly inserted in the framework of the defense of the mountain to avoid the abandonment of the lands and, therefore, the denudation, the erosion, which more scholars have defined "the debris of the insular continental mountain ". In many areas, the" cotica pabulare "has been reconstituted, which by improving the soil, the microclimate, maintains a minimum of permanent humidity and allows for a real wood, and not sparse and spaced trees, which live in isolation. The forest also acts as a brake for erosion and geological instability which, as is well known, takes millions of meters of arable land away from the sea every year.
Cammarata is one of the many municipalities of the island with a prevalent agricultural economy. The serious crisis in this sector affects about 70% of the population; industrial, artisan and tourist activities do not currently constitute a significant coefficient in the composition of income. A vast plan of initiatives has been prepared for farmers to rearrange their cultures in order to obtain product qualification and greater labor productivity.
Initiatives have been taken to hasten the modification of the criteria of the current cultural management, in order to encourage new productive possibilities, particularly in the livestock sector. Other initiatives in the industrial sector should increase the demand for work which, with the awakening of artisan activities in specialized sectors, in which labor is the most significant factor, would bring a new impetus to the country's economy.
This is the essential content of the political commitment which, through a realistic vision, seeks to renew the social and economic life of Cammarata. Faced with this commitment, however, a greater participation of the population in community life is necessary: it must be taken into account that external interventions do not prove valid when there is no active participation on the part of the community. The work program of the administrators of Cammarata cannot fail to correspond, therefore, to a development of the civic sense of the community, if the realizations are to become operative. In fact, every realization, which does not fit into the active life of the community, does not constitute an efficient element, but a foreign motive, devoid of its functionality.
This is a very important topic in the renewal policy of municipal structures because, in addition to requiring enlightened action by the administrators, it also requires a social maturity of the community which is called to make the renovation works functional. Civic education cannot be understood only in the expectation of certain services, or economic incentives, if it itself is not ready to make them operational and suitable for those transformations that many times ancient customs and traditional systems of environmental conditions linger, if not even cancel. The economic, urban and social changes must not be only a duty of the administrators to which the apathy and isolation of the citizen from community interests correspond.
We would not want to be tedious, but a small tree, which the administrators have planted, can grow and develop, if the community keeps it, the street remains clean, if each inhabitant feels the dignity that in the external aspect of the urban environment is reflected that of the own home. Thus the renewals of the economic structure and the modifications suggested by the new social needs, if for the great works they must necessarily wait for external intervention, in their capillarity they must engage every single citizen; lingering does not mean private damage, but an injury to public interests.
The small town of Cammarata has led us to conclusions that might superficially seem extraneous to it, but the very fact of giving preference to small towns many times in the "Countries of Sicily" series, responds to the precise purpose of finding the big ones in small stories. reasons that affect the renewal of Sicily. The island, which for centuries was the crossroads of Mediterranean civilization, must, in the renewal in which it is currently engaged, find its best place, which cannot be achieved unless community awareness develops. This indication was suggested to us by Cammarata and therefore, to bring it to general attention, it cannot be considered extraneous.