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Cammarata -San Giovanni Gemini

Your next destination in Sicily in the Sicani mountains

A mountain of excellence


The territory on which the two towns of Cammarata and San Giovanni Gemini stand is almost completely unexplored, the numerous caves found there have brought to light unequivocal evidence of human settlement dating back to the Stone Age. The caves, especially in the Pizzillo area, have never been fully and systematically sounded, but from the information obtained - especially from the most recent explorations - it can be said with certainty that they were inhabited in the Epipaleolithic period. The lithic finds and the artefacts certainly datable to that era testify to this. In addition, "numerous shards of clay material, smooth or stamped and even painted ceramic" were found. Some explorations of the Contrada Pizzillo caves were carried out in the years 1960, 1961, 1962 by the «Akragas» Speleological Group with satisfactory results from a historical and archaeological point of view.

One of the most interesting caves is that of Acqua Fitusa, scoured in September 1931 by dr. Eduardo Coffari, by lawyers. Francesco Carta and Giovanni Longo and by Mr. Giovanni Amormino di Vito, who have left us a detailed report.

Mons. Domenico De Gregorio - historian from Cammarata - writes in the volume "Cammarata" that "The scientific exploration of the cave began thanks to the Italian Institute of Prehistory and Protohistory and the Superintendence of Antiquities of Agrigento" and by scholars " A. Palma di Cesuola, P. Gambassini and G. Bianchini in the month of April of the years 1969,1970, 1971.The material found was numerous, exceeding three thousand pieces, and very interesting for the material and shape: burins and of the scratchers, the truncations, the beaks, the spikes on the back, the blades on the back, the scrapers. "" Regarding the chronology, from the coal samples found in the gray layer of the excavation, immediately above the base rock and subjected to the analysis at the C 14 laboratory in Florence for the gray layer, it appears that they are located, with an approximation of more or less than 330 years, to 13760 years ago ».

  "Other interesting caves are found in our territory such as those of the Fosse district, which were also inhabited in prehistoric times, the Rupi Rosse della Montagnola, which are of marine origin, and, further down, the Old 'Ntantara cave and that of the Ladroni , also called the Fridda ».

The ancient period

In the Greek and Roman period in our territory there must have been one or more settlements and on a permanent basis. In fact "along the Platani, and especially in the area between Ganzeria and Salina, ruins of ancient buildings were found, shards of vases from the Roman era, and in the one where the railway station stands today, during the excavations for the planting works, various ancient Roman objects were found. Thus also in Casabella, in Tumarrano, in Chiano d'Amata, ancient coins, traces of houses, shards of vases were found and in Casabella a mosaic floor ». «Unfortunately, - affirms Domenico De Gregorio - up to the time of the Normans it is impossible to write or even groped, in the current state of studies, a history of our territory due to the lack of reliable information transmitted by historians.

Of the Christian era we have the testimony offered to us by some tombs in Tumarrano and by others with arcosolium on the east side of a sandstone rock in the locality of Casabella ».

Our territory was certainly inhabited during the Byzantine period and before the conquest of the Arabs, as evidenced by various traces and especially by the document of 1176, in which the quarrel between the inhabitants of Karsa and Tumarrano is reconciled.

cammarata story


History of Cammarata 

From prehistory to the present day

The lack of original documents and the silence of the writers do not allow us to know exactly the time of the foundation of Cammarata. Several historians, however, have formulated hypotheses in an attempt to reconstruct its origins.

They attribute to Cammarata an Arab origin the ab. Amico, F. Tardia, A. Airoldi, F. Ferrara, L. Calcara Egizio, G. Bonanno and R. Gregorio; they believe, instead, that it was established during the Norman period C. Pasca, G. Di Marzo and IVI. Amari. «Now, apart from the reported opinions almost all lacking in evidence, - writes Gaetano Di Giovanni, rosi.  Castelterminese scholar engineer, - he is certain that the first time the name of Cammarata appears was in a document published by can. Pasca, having the date of the same year in which the death of Count Ruggiero took place, that is 1101 ».  «And I am inclined to believe ... that today's commune of Cammarata does not draw its origin from an epoch prior to the Muslim one; since, being certain its existence in the Norman period, it is very probable that it persisted to the Christian conquest ».

Mons. Domenico De Gregorio does not agree with the above hypothesis, because in the volume "Cammarata" he writes: "If it is legitimate for us to put forward a hypothesis, we believe that the inhabited area of Cammarata, at least in its fundamental nucleus, pre-dates the Norman domination and also Arab ”.

The first historical documents on Cammarata date back to the Norman period, when its territory was granted by Count Ruggero D'Altavilla to his relative Lucia, who is called «Domina o dominàtrix Cameratae». It had to receive the feudal investiture of the territory and of the castle at the beginning of the XII century; later his son Adam joined.

From the origins to the thirteenth century

There are no "historical documents or archaeological data" that allow us to know which was the oldest district of Cammarata. Likewise there are not many writers who have attempted a reconstruction and who constitute such sources for us in order to be able to advance hypotheses.

Domenico De Gregorio, the most reliable source, writes in the volume «Cammarata»: «The nucleus of the current square, ahead of S. Sebastiano  [The church of San Sebastiano should be very old. It is dedicated to the Madonna of Itria. In 1985, during the restoration works, the foundations of an earlier building were found. Are they perhaps the remains of an ancient Byzantine church that stood in the primitive nucleus of the town? The cult of S. Sebastiano will have been introduced there towards the end of the century. XV and the beginning of the following. In the church there are the statues of S. Sebastiano and S. Rocco and the Madonna della Scalilla, the painting of Purgatory, S. Gregorio and the Madonna dell'Itria of the century. XVIII ".

In ancient documents, it is called "touch" (that is, part, piece) "old" and, probably, the name was used to indicate the oldest part of the town, as confirmed by the other name with which the same place is called: "Vico" (also followed, at times, by the same adjective as old). According to the Tirrito it was also called "citazza" perhaps a corruption of the Latin "civitas". "In the Arab period, towards the ninth century, the district of Gianguarna had to be formed, because in the place where the church of S. Giacomo stands today there was once an ancient Arab mosque. Mons. De Gregorio, in fact, in confirmation of this writes: "Gianguarna was the other district of ancient origin, perhaps also Arab or from the early Norman times. The name could mean: source of Guarna (ain = source) ". In a subsequent period, another" inhabited center, or at least a certain nucleus of houses which later disappeared, because the area is landslide ", had to be created after the Gianguarna," in the area around the current newsstand dedicated to S. Cataldo, who gave the district its name ».

This hypothesis is supported by the news according to which «S. Gerlando (died in 1100) »there« had the church of San Cataldo built ». «The church of San Cataldo was among the oldest in Cammarata because, as can be deduced from a document preserved in the Archives of the Bishop's Curia of Agrigento, it was founded by San Gerlando.

  But already in the visit of 1540 it was described as "ruined and naked". In 1594 in S. Cataldo was the convent of S. Francesco (Minori conventuali?) And a legacy founded by Gaspare Gaziano was required.

The ciantro of the chapter, which owned it and had officiated it, had to restore it since it is still mentioned in a document of 1629. But later it completely ruined "

The houses and the church were destroyed due to the continuous landslides to which the area is subject, the "inhabitants had to build new homes further upstream", in a safer and more stable place identified with the one where the church of the Annunziata stands with the adjoining convent . Meanwhile, from the square «the houses, more and more numerous, leaned against the mountain and clung to the foot of the castle as if to protect it. And the manor, from above, like an old parent, watched over them with paternal understanding ».

Thus, "perhaps at the beginning of the Norman domination", the primitive nucleus of the square began to enlarge and "another district developed ... under the castle, extending to the south-east as far as the Scalilla".

In the course of the thirteenth century, between the ancient districts of the square and the Gianguarna, a group of houses arose which in a short time increased. There, the first years of the fourteenth century, we think, the matrix had to be built.

The matrix had to be built in the early 14th century. "It was dedicated to St. Nicholas of Bari, stood in the area of the current church and was preceded by a land on which cypresses grew, perhaps, as was the ancient custom, between the graves placed in front of the church". In 1624 a fire destroyed the matrix, whose reconstruction  completed only in 1701.  It is a church with three naves, divided by five pillar-shaped columns on each side; it is mt. 52.30, wide mt. 17 and high mt. 24. The presbytery is mt. 15,30 and wide mt. 8.30.

The matrix, rich in works of art, preserves the ancient organ of the sixteenth century, the monumental pulpit of 1776, the Banco dei Giurati of the eighteenth century, the Risen Christ by Antonio La Bella, a Deposition from the end of the sixteenth century, the marble cone by Andrea Mancino, the Bramante Niche in pure gold, the statues of the Madonna dei Miracoli and S. Nicola.

Meanwhile, however, in the first half of the thirteenth century, the churches of S. Biagio had been built, "Antiquissima aedes" (very ancient church). shortly afterwards the Carmelites had to come and live there, who remained there until the end of the century. XV or early. XVI, when they passed into S. Giovanni ». The church was closed for worship in 1980, after the death of the sac. Don Vincenzo Pollina. In the church there are the paintings of S. Filippo Neri by Reni and the Holy Family and the Nativity by Pietro D'Asaro, the Crucifix and the statues of S. Biagio and S. Lucia. ​ Under the square, and of S. Maria di Gesù,  «The first church of S. Maria was built by the" dominatrix "Lucia di Cammarata before 1141». Since in the century XVIII the church and the convent threatened ruin, after 1759 their construction was begun on the Casazza hill. They had to be completed towards the end of the century. The church, with one nave, is mt. 8, high mt. 14.20 and long mt. 27.In it there are interesting works such as the statues of the Madonna Bianca by Gaggini, S. Francesco, S. Antonio, S. Pasquale del Bagnasco, the Madonna di Cacciapensieri and - S. Giuseppe and the paintings of S. Francesco and S. Diego.  In the district of S. Lucia.

The architects Antonino Barone and Giuseppe Giarratana do not agree with the hypotheses of Msgr. De Gregorio, in fact, in the thesis "Problems of the territory of Cammarata connected to the history of the county" they write: "The district of Gianguarna, almost certainly the oldest ..., falls within the sphere of influence of the church of the Annunziata  ("In ancient times the church was dedicated to the Madonna of the Sick, but, even before the visit in 1540, it was called dell'Annunziata. It had a bell gable with two bells; on the initiative of the rector Sac. Salvatore. Pollina, from 1947 to 1949, a new bell tower was built on which a clock was later placed. "The church, today, is preceded by an atrium with a pointed arch and has the Crucifix (from the 17th century), the 17th century wooden group of the Annunziata, the canvas of the Magdalene perhaps by Reni and a painting by Fra Fedele da S. Biagio)  and of the adjoining convent whose perimeter walls are still visible ».

Then they indicate in a table, where the urban development of Cammarata is reconstructed, as the second residential nucleus, the district downstream of the ancient "Strata della Carrozza" and between the square, the castle and the matrix. Among the aforementioned and partly conflicting hypotheses, we believe those expressed by Msgr. Domenico De Gregorio, both for the seriousness of those who advance them and because they appear the most likely. In fact we are inclined to believe that the primitive nucleus of the village was built around the "square", even if, as some ruins attest, an older and fortified farmhouse must have been located further upstream. The district of Gianguarna, although ancient, must have been created later, probably in the Arab period, because, as has been reported above, in the place where the church of S. Giacomo stands once there was perhaps a mosque. In fact, the area was called, with a name of Arabic origin, "rabbato" or "rabbatello". Cammarata had the 0k in Lucia's time, and especially in the years immediately following,  an increase in population caused by many factors, such as the struggles against the Muslims around 1250 - when the numerous Arab hamlets of the Cammaratese countryside became depopulated -, the attraction of a strategic position as strong as the rock on which the town was built , the security guaranteed by the power of Lucia and her successor Adamo, around their fortified castle, a phenomenon common to many other Sicilian towns, the comforts offered by a large coexistence of citizens and, we can also add, the need to find an airy place and far from malarial and landslide places that the deforestation of vast areas was beginning to make dangerous ". This hypothesis is supported by Edrisi, who in" The book of King Roger "describes Cammarata during the dominion of Lucia:" Qammaratah, casale grosso , has a territory of extensive borders, with many fields to sow, has a castle with a high site, strong and defensible, vegetable gardens and gardens and fruit in abundance ».

The castle of Cammarata

To this day we do not know any documents that can testify to the origins of the castle, so the period in which it had to be built and the lord who ordered its construction are unknown ...

1920s castle photo

Drawing by Enzo Li  Gregni

In this section  we have collected other details on the history of Cammarata  taken from the book Countries of Sicily of the Sicilian Bibliographic Institute, printed  May 15, 1965. We hope to have done something pleasant.
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The fourteenth and fourteenth centuries

During the fourteenth century the town of Cammarata developed "up to Porta Guagliarda"  where, as the name implies, one of the gates of the town stood. The aedicule of the Madonna della Porta also testifies to this, according to the widespread custom - as evidenced by many monuments in ancient cities - of placing the image of the Virgin, "Ianua coeli", near the most important doors, for protection and defense.

The natural line of the town's fortifications and, probably, at least in certain sections, of the walls, descended from there towards the south, along the natural valley - a real torrent, in winter - which reached the Cozzo della Vucciria and then ended with the another door which was located between San Domenico and San Biagio. In ancient documents, up to the beginning of the century. XVII, we speak of the district of Porta Guagliarda "or lo lavinaro" ».

"The district of San Vito probably arose later, between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, because at the beginning of the sixteenth century it is remembered as existing and equipped with a church".  The ancient church of S. Vito, prior to the 16th century, was small and had six altars. The current one - due to the style and the information found in some documents - can be considered built between the second half of the 16th century and the first of the 17th century. The church has a basilica plan with five pillars on each side and a chapel between the two apse chapels. It preserves notable works such as the ancient organ (of the '700), the artistic choir, the wooden Crucifix (of the' 600), the statues of S. Vito (of the '600), of S. Pietro, of S. Paolo, the broad bricks of the Holy Virgin and God the Father and the paintings of S. Placido, S. Eligio and S. Liborio. In the sacristy there is a carved wooden wardrobe decorated with cherubs and friezes, surmounted by a small shrine with the statuette of S. Vito.

An indication of the commercial importance of Cammarata, which due to the strong increase had taken on the appearance of a town, was the establishment of a hospital  (The hospital, near the church of S. Antonio (today S. Domenico), had existed since the 14th century. "Since the building had collapsed," the hospital was refounded by the priests of Cammarata on 6 January 1493 ". at the beginning of the 19th century, due to the unsafe building, the sick were transported to the monastery of the Annunziata, first, and then to a building located in front of the matrix. In 1937, following the testamentary bequests of the brothers Luigi and Salvatore Longo, the hospital was moved to the premises of via L. Longo and in 1984, for hygienic-sanitary reasons, in a new building in the district of S. Lucia.), the existence of a Jewish community and the construction of the churches of S. Domenico ("The church of S. Domenico was built by the Dominicans in place of the one dedicated to S. Antonio which had been granted to them in -1509, with the hospice, for use as a convent".  In 1913 a fire destroyed the apse and the roof. The reconstruction, begun in 1929, was completed in 1934. The church preserves the broad bricks of S. Giacinto, S. Vincenzo, S. Domenico, del Rosario, S. Agostino, Madonna del Ro), Santa Domenica  (The church of Santa Domenica had to be built towards the middle of the 15th century, because in a document it is mentioned as "Ecclesia di S. Domenica in dicta terra in which est confratria." The church, after the suppression of ecclesiastical property in 1866 , was deprived of the convent which was transformed into a town hall. It houses the statues of Mary Help of Christians, of St. Philip of Agira, of the Immaculate Conception (18th century) and the paintings of the Adoration of the Magi and of St. Cajetan . In the Altar of the Crucifix there is a silver tabernacle and a frontal in silver foil.) And of S. Giacomo and S. Giovanni Evangelista (This church, according to tradition, stands on an ancient Arab mosque; what is probable because St. James was considered the protector of Christians against the Moors. But the current church is not the old one - which however - it had to be close to it - because in 1576 it was already destroyed. " he rebuilt the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista, the confreres of S. Giaco mo asked and obtained from the Bishop to transfer their brotherhood to it. The church remained open for worship until the Second World War.).

"Only in 1312", - writes Msgr. De Gregorio «by a decree of Frederick II of Sicily, they were required to live in the ghetto which then became the commercial district. With this decree of 23 July the king prescribed that the Jews gather in a secluded place and outside the city walls and therefore, probably since then, they gathered in Cammarata in the area below S. Maria, in the land between the garden of S. Agostino and S. Vito, which, even today, is still sometimes called the quarter of the Jews. Their synagogue and also their cemetery were to be built there. With the affirmation of the Spaniards, tolerance towards the Jews diminished until Ferdinand the Catholic, on March 31, 1492, signed the decree for the expulsion of the Jews from all his domains ». (7) At the end of the fifteenth century Cammarata, due to the massive immigration of "new inhabitants", had seen the population increase considerably. In fact the inhabitants, which according to V. Amico towards the middle of the 16th century were 8,092, had exceeded the number of 7,000.

Church of the Annunziata - Gianguarna

Church of Santa Domenica (Badia)

Madrice di Cammarata drawing

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