Burgio is a small town that occupies an area of just 42.23 km2. Despite its small size, it offers so many things to discover and so many stories to tell that we have decided to "reveal it in installments"! We do not find ourselves in Burgio by chance or passing through. We find ourselves in Burgio because it was decided, attracted by the tradition of ceramics, by the production of bells or by the possibility of taking part in one of the many water-trekking of the Sosio river or trekking in the Sicanian woods. Whether you arrive from the SS 115 or from the provincial roads of the internal area, the scenario that presents itself is suggestive from every angle. A sort of crescent moon embraced by the limestone and clay hills and dominated by the Sicani Mountains. The surrounding countryside, mostly cultivated with olive and orange groves, embellishes the entire landscape with its colors. The antiquity of this country is beyond doubt, even if the lack of documentation makes it difficult to make specific and safe hypotheses about the period and methods of its formation. Most think that it was born from the exodus, around the year 1000, of the inhabitants of the Sicana Scirtea, located a handful of km to the west near San Carlo (a hamlet of Chiusa Sclafani, PA). Here the ruins of the so-called "Castle of Gristia" that surmount the river Sosio, are a testimony of the urban presence in this area. Scirteini or not, Burgio's Arab-Norman origin is undisputed.
There are many monuments that, together with the typical urban planning of the period, give proof of this. Starting with the Mother Church immersed in the dense meandering plot of the historic center. With its majestic Norman architecture (recognizable only in the external part) it imposes itself strongly among the houses that, over the centuries, have clung to it. Imitating the route of the Via Crucis indicated by the majolica panels, we arrive at the Church of the Immaculate Conception or of the Motta which, according to tradition, was born in 1600 on the site of a chapel inherent in the 12th century fortified circuit. This circuit included the Castle which, with its parallelepiped mass and its yellow-brown color, stands in the center of Piazza Calvario, at the top of a staircase that still partly retains its original layout dug into the bare rock. The Church of Mercy, not far from the Matrice, completes the picture of the oldest urban monuments of Burgio, which testify to its birth in the Middle Ages. Between churches, monuments, museums, the castle, the historic center and the woods, a whole day is not enough to enjoy all this. There is also the possibility of short excursions, but it would be like enjoying an excellent lunch stopping at an appetizer!
Walking through the streets of the historic center one cannot help but be pleasantly struck: a network of narrow and winding streets that in many points end in courtyards where external staircases and strictly stone loggias dominate, all enriched by balconies with the characteristic “gattuna” (under-balconies) also in stone, and Burgitan ceramic planters. In Burgio the main square, Piazza Umberto I, is narrow and long while the classic circular square is found in front of the many churches that enrich the urban fabric. The town of ceramics and bells is also famous for the almost twenty religious buildings that stand out here and there, in some cases accompanied by adjacent monasteries. Each of these churches is unique and all deserve mention. However, we want to dwell only on some of them with the hope of instilling in you readers a glimmer of curiosity and, who knows, arousing the desire to come and see for yourself.
Let's start with the Church of San Giuseppe, dating back to 1623, with its bell tower covered with majolica tiles, the portal carved in stone and, last but not least, the interior entirely frescoed. In Baroque-Rococo style it was willingly defined "The Sistine Chapel of the Sicani Mountains". Let's move on to the aforementioned Mother Church which houses, among the many works, a wooden crucifix (one of the oldest in Sicily) of the twelfth century, a Byzantine icon of the same period (protagonist of a so-called "religious mystery" of which we will talk about in another episode), a statue of the Madonna by Vincenzo Gagini from the sixteenth century. Other works by the Gagini are the statue of San Vito kept in the church of the same name, which below the floor has a large catacomb environment, and that of Sant'Anna and the Madonna child in the Church of Santa Maria. Adjacent to the latter is what was once the convent of the Reformed Fathers and which now houses the MUCEB. Inaugurated in 2010, the Burgio Ceramics Museum houses specimens whose dating starts from the end of the 16th century (initial moment of the Burgitan ceramic tradition) up to the present day. In the crypt adjacent to the Capuchin Church there is the Museum of mummies with about fifty mummies from the second half of the 1800s, many of which wear the original clothes of the time. The museum is accessed directly from the church and here the gaze cannot fail to rest on the huge eighteenth-century altarpiece attributed to Zoppo di Gangi which allegorically represents the sacrament of the Eucharist. Each altar of this church is embellished with a "frontal", a canvas on which wheat leaves are applied that draw plant motifs.
Burgio not only boasts churches, monasteries and works of art. The fact that it rises between a stone hill and another in clay has allowed the Burgitans to develop excellent craftsmanship that concerns not only the manufacture of ceramics, but also sculpture. Let's say, in summary, that Burgio is this and much more! We, however, do not want to reveal everything immediately so we give you an appointment for another story ... to read!