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Castronovo di Sicilia

History

Talking about Castronovo is like opening a casket. Inside, in fact, a real treasure is kept, represented by a history full of facts and events that have always seen it as a protagonist in all the phases that have characterized the events of the island. The distant origins of Castronovo di Sicilia are confirmed by the existence of an archaic settlement consisting of troglodyte dwellings in the Grotte district, on the banks of the Platani river, attributable to the Sican people. The first scientific exploration of these settlements, at least in recent times, dates back to 1743, by the local historian Vito Mastrangelo. According to the scholar's description, it seems that the walls of some caves show hieroglyphic signs. In the largest cave, where drops of water dripping, the Calpevenere germinates, from which the cave takes its name, seats carved into the rock are evident in it. The military expansion of Agrigento and the conflict of the same with Syracuse and Imera, will force the defenseless Sican population to move from the Grotte district to the Cassaro plateau, a safer and impregnable site that from the top of its 1100 meters overlooks the current inhabited center. Thus originates the city of Krastus. According to a recent and revolutionary theory, these could be the places where the ancient city of Petra * stood.

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The thesis that the city of Crastus had its site on the Kassar plateau is reflected in the historical reference that recalls Falaride tire of Agrigento, who in order to consolidate and expand the agrigento territory towards the northern area of the island along the course of the River Platani, had a fortress built that marked the limit between the Carthagenese, Agrigento and Syracuse territories. This will represent the first nucleus of that denomitable stronghold Krastus, with a Greek etymological meaning, which indicates a particularly fortified place with an abundance of pastures and water, of which the foundations are still identifiable. Krastus's origins should be traced back to the 6th century .C.. In 456 .C. the town was the scene of a powerful battle between the Agrigento armies, Imeresis and frosts for possession of the fortress. In the 19th century Professor Cavallaro revealed the plan of the vast city, measuring the perimeter of more than 5500 meters, and also identifying a series of towers placed in strategic points to strengthen its security. (*) In the study of the ancient rock structures in the Platani valley by Vittoria Giustolisi, the reconstruction of the route of the Itinerarium Antoniti Augusti, which in Roman times connected Palermo and Agrigento, had as its main objective the identification of the first three stationes of the itinerary, starting from Agrigento, and the recognition of the ancient city of Petra, which could be connected as was likely to be arguing, with the Petrina state. The probable location of the latter in the archaeological site that extends for about nine hectares around the farmhouse of San Pietro, convinced the researcher that the ancient appropriations that gravitate around today's town (colle di San Vitale, the Cassaro and the site of Castronovo itself) are those in which the ancient city must be seen, a hypothesis that is quite revolutionary. The city is mentioned by several ancient historians; Diodorus reports that the Petrina people, after the conquest of Palermo in 254 BC.C, after hunting the Carthagines, handed the city over to the Romans. Cicero counts Petra as the city that suffered the abuses of Verra. Petra is, however, almost unanimously identified in an area near Petralia.

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Monuments


MOTHER CHURCH SS. TRINITY'
The Mother Church was built on the site of the Norman Castle, built in 1901 by Count Ruggero and enlarged in 1375 by Manfredi Chiaromonte, Count of Castronovo. Used as a military garrison between the two large cities of Himera and Akragas, the castle stood on the wide natural platform at the foot of Mount Kassar and was surrounded by a large moat, now completely filled. Once its military function was exhausted, the castle was adapted and transformed into a church open for worship on 30 October 1388; on 3 May 1404 it was erected as a parish and dedicated to the SS. Trinity, as reported by the inscriptions in the beam on the large entrance door. Of the old manor only the two towers remain, one of which has been transformed into a bell tower, and which still shows the colossal walls used as a fortress, and the other in the current apse. The church has a single large nave, has a Latin cross plan with several chapels on the sides. The perimeter walls reach, in some places, two meters thick. The construction of the new matrix was the consequence of the abandonment of the old Mother Church of the Madonna dell’Udienza which stood on the cliff of S. Vitale. In fact, in the early 1400s, the majority of citizens decided to move to the place where the current settlement would later arise; the construction of the Mother Church accelerated the transmigration of the noblest families, of the municipal body and of the Clergy, it is therefore to be considered de jure the continuation of the previous Mother Church. New buildings soon arose around the church, the first districts took the names of Pozzo (from a pre-existing well), Pagliarelli (from improvised houses with thatched roofs), Bagni (for the running waters that served the tanneries). Like all human things, the Mother Church also suffered the shame of time and the first restorations were necessary in the seventeenth century, but the various renovations and various additions in the following centuries unfortunately removed from the magnificent temple its original structure of a Gothic monument. -Norman. The only original features preserved on the external walls are two ancient closed windows: one in Gothic style with an equilateral round arch, the other a mullioned window in the Chiaramonte style but without the columns; the small lateral portal, in composite Greco-Roman style, in colored stone; the main portal, in worked stone, in Romanesque style, rebuilt in the 18th century. At the top there is the coat of arms of the ancient Greek collegiate church, a marble bas-relief depicting the Easter Lamb lying on top of a book with seven seals. Formerly simple and poor in decorations, it was later adorned with precious yellow marble, taken from the Kassar quarries used for the altars and balustrades and inlaid by local artists Andrea and Stefano Geraci. The same marble was used for the 98 columns that adorn the majestic portico of the Royal Palace of Caserta. The church is a large treasure chest full of works of art. The stuccos depicting the Eternal Father, Saints Peter and Paul, St. John and the Addolorata, scenes from the Passion of Christ, cherubs and floral motifs are the work of the Castronovese plasterer Antonio Messina. The plasters were made by Andrea Sesta. The SS. Crucifix, a very remarkable work by an unknown artist, which sources date back to 1301. In the niches of the presbytery are placed the statues of St. Simon the Apostle, the work of Marco Lo Cascio of the sixteenth century, of St. Antonio Abate and St. Francesco di Paola both by an unknown artist and dating back to the seventeenth century, of the Madonna della Candelora or del Soccorso, by Bartolomeo Berrettaro, dating back to the fifteenth century. The sides of the presbytery are entirely occupied by the artistic Choir for the Collegiate, in walnut wood, an eighteenth-century work by the carver Antonio Giordano. The pulpit-confessional in walnut wood, 6 meters high, is due to the same artist. The pulpit above the confessional is surmounted by a fringed canopy. Another noteworthy work is the pipe organ made by Raffaele Della Valle. Of considerable value is the chapel of the Addolorata made of walnut wood for the Madonna who wept in Castronovo in the Conti house on March 20, 1931. In the chapel, opposite the side entrance door, is the precious immersion baptismal font in historiated marble, attributed to Antonello Gagini, enriched by a fifteenth-century Ciborium in white Carrara marble. Also attributed to Antonello Gagini is the statue of S. Pietro in Cattedra, in white Carrara marble, previously kept in the Church of S. Pietro. The Sacristy is a large room decorated with stuccos and canvases, the work of Antonio Messina. In 1986 it was restored to allow for the setting up of the parish museum built by archpriest Onorio Scaglione, in order to enhance the huge heritage accumulated over the centuries. The most valuable work is an ivory cabinet 1300 of Greek-Byzantine manufacture. It comes from the ancient Matrix S. Maria dell’Udienza, but scholars believe it is of profane origin. The modeled figures clearly illustrate a romantic scene, and this suggests that the original use of the cabinet was for the dressing table of a great Renaissance lady. Only in the nineteenth century it passed among the sacred furnishings, it was in fact used for the deposition of the blessed sacrament on Holy Thursday. Affixed to the walls of the Sacristy you can see the marble bas-reliefs, the work of Antonio De Noto, from 1551. The walls are adorned with numerous paintings, including "Christ to the scourges" of the seventeenth century, the "Madonna delle Fragole", a late Baroque work by unknown author.

CHURCH OF SAN VITALE
It is dedicated to the patron saint, it was built in the seventeenth century on the remains of the royal chapel that was attached to the castle founded by Ruggero, the Norman count who in 1077 had besieged and conquered the city. The church has two Gothic-style mullioned windows on the eastern facade, and is rich in stuccos by Antonio Messina. In the church you can admire the wooden statue of San Vitale (by the Castronovese Antonio Giordano), a Madonnina with a child of very fine marble, a dying Christ on the cross on a table and a picture of the blessed Elia, nephew of S. Vitale.

CHURCH OF SANTA CATERINA D’ALESSANDRIA
With a Vice-Regio dispatch of 23 August 1523, a century after the consecration of the Mother Church, on the place where previously there was a small church dedicated to St. Stephen the Protomartyr, the church dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria was built. its decorations and its Corinthian-Romanesque architecture, ranks among the most beautiful churches in Castronovo. More than with its true name, however, the Castronovesi know it as the church of the Badia, due to the presence, until the end of the 19th century, of a monastery of Benedictine nuns and their Mother Abbess. Little remains of the ancient monastery today. The most important find, preserved in perfect condition, is the grandiose and valuable step of the choir or "cantoria", with a perforated wooden wall and carved balustrade, the work of Sicilian workers, and in the center of which the city coat of arms painted on the table stands out. The church has a single nave with a semi-sliding apse and a sphere-shaped basin. The simplicity of the current façade contrasts with the chromatic richness of the interior where the eighteenth-century polychrome stuccoes by Antonio Messina from Castronovese stand out. The main altar was built by an unknown person in 700 with inlays of polychrome marble, while the floor is in granite. In the 19th century it was restored by the plasterer Calogero Sesta. The many works of art present make this church a real jewel, a favor to see and appreciate. Inside, in fact, the precious altars in marble and agate, a ciborium obtained from an agate monolith, the paintings of the Addolorata, of S. Antonio Abate, of S. Benedetto, of S. Caterina, attributed a Fra faithful of S. Biagio Platani (AG). The oldest work of art kept in the church is a painted and gilded wooden statue depicting the Immaculate Conception, dated 1698, by the artists Francesco Ryna and Vincenzo Di Giovanni. Also worth mentioning is a confessional from the early 18th century by an unknown author. Mass is currently celebrated there on Sundays and holidays of obligation.

CHURCH OF SAN FRANCESCO
The first news of a chapel dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, in Castronovo, dates back to 1346. It was erected on the current site after the sinking of a church and a convent dedicated to St. Rocco of which no trace remains. The current church was later built on this chapel. Its construction was decreed on January 8, 1556, dedicating it, however, not to St. Francis but to St. Anthony of Padua, at the express wish of Mr. Antonio Garagliano who had donated the land. In 1578 the church was enlarged by Francesco Capobianco with the construction of a convent, this time however dedicating everything to St. Francis of Assisi. In 1774, the rev. Fr. Giuseppe Noto fitted the bell tower with a large clock and endowed the church with a pipe organ. In 1868, following the abolition of religious bodies, the premises of the convent were used as a municipal building. The church, with a single nave, without a transept, completed by a square apse with a barrel-vaulted roof with lunettes, resting on Corinthian capitals, is a small art museum. There are various works that fill the side altars (eight in all dating back to 1780), which are of yellow marble obtained from the Kassar quarries: a beautiful wooden statue of St. Francis of Assisi two meters high made by the sculptor Konrad Platz; the statues of S. Calogero, S. Giuseppe and the Immaculate Conception, the work of Filippo Quattrocchi from Ganci (PA). Located in the first altar entering on the left from the sixteenth-century portal, is the statue of S. Eligio (S. Alò), from the first half of the nineteenth century. Due to the large number of statues preserved there, the church has been given the nickname "Church of the Statues". Of particular interest is the Annunziata, a sculpted group in poplar, willow and lime wood, created in 1580 by Marco Lo Cascio of Chiusa Sclafani. The polychrome processional coffin consists of a pedestal decorated with relief scenes depicting episodes from the life of the Madonna, at the corners of which there are four columns that support a dome enclosing the statuary group of the Madonna of the Archangel Gabriel. Every year, for the feast of the SS. Crucified on May 3, it is carried in procession through the streets of the town by a group of about 50 children. the frescoes on the vault are the work of d

el Castronovese painter Giuseppe Traina and date back to 1848.

CALVARY CHURCH
It was built in 1810 following a popular collection on the land where the female monastery of S. Antonio Abate previously stood, dating back to 1520. The building has a circular plan formed by a central part with two small sacristy rooms on the sides. The construction work saw the intervention of several artists, such as Andrea Sesta, Andrea Geraci and his son Stefano, and again Giovanni Patti. The whole is surrounded by a grating from the early 1900s. On Calvary, every year on Good Friday, the passion and crucifixion of Jesus is commemorated.

CHURCH OF SANTA ROSALIA
In the years 1624-25, the plague caused numerous victims in Sicily, also affecting Castronovo; 4000 were the dead, almost half of the inhabitants. Immediately afterwards, to remind posterity of this calamity, the church was built, dedicated to St. Rosalia. To decree the construction was the Rev. Don Antonio Giallongo, archpriest of the Matrice, to carry out the wishes of the parents, who had expressed the vow to erect a chapel or church to the Saint as thanks for having been freed from the plague. Embellished with stuccoes in 1770, and restored again in 1964, it houses a wooden statue of St. Rosalia, an artisan work by an unknown artist from the 19th century.

CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY
The church was built in 1621, but already in 1770 the Rev. Don Giuseppe Alondres had it restored by the Castronovese plasterer Antonio Messina, a pupil of Serpotta. In 1950 the Church was cut into two parts, one of which was demolished to make way for the current Corso Umberto I. The building has a single nave with a right apse, the vault is partly with wooden roof and partly with cross , the interior decorations are all in white stucco. On the outside, the church lacks the original facade; the portal comes from the demolition of the church of S. Sebastiano. Although small and mutilated, inside it preserves valuable works of art. In addition to the stuccoes of Messina, the apse houses an eighteenth-century oil painting on canvas with the effigy of the owner of the church, by Vito d'Anna. It has recently kept the fourteenth-century fresco in the apse, depicting the Judge Giusto, detached from the church of the same name on the S. Vitale hill. But certainly the most valuable work is the "launch" of St. George, former protector of Castronovo, a polychrome wooden group by Marco and Silvio Lo Cascio from Chiusa Sclafani, which is carried in procession on May 3 for the feast of the SS. Crucifix. Also worthy of interest are the wooden Crucifix (18th century) by an unknown artist and an urn of the dead Christ, made in 1949 by Vito Butera from Castronovo. The weekday morning mass is open for worship.

CHURCH OF SAN PIETRO
The farmhouse of S. Pietro, dating back to the Byzantine period, is located, with the adjoining church, now deconsecrated, along the banks of the Platani river, 5 km away from the town. The locality, by various historians, is referred to as the ancient "Comiciana" station, located on the ancient Roman route that connected Agrigento to Palermo, known as the Antonino itinerary. It is remembered because on 10 July 1391 Manfredi Chiaramonte, Count of Castronovo, who had made a commitment with the legate of Pope Boniface IX to put an end to internal discords in Sicily, convened the Parliament of the Sicilian Kingdom there. In this session, the barons summoned took the decision, then not maintained, not to crown Martin king of Sicily, as having married Maria, daughter of Frederick III of Aragon, did not give him the right to claim the kingdom of Sicily. ... The story was also echoed in a Sicilian folk song, collected from Vigo:

A Castrunovu fifty baruna
of Lutti paisi them and quoted them
ecu arceri, ccu cavaddi and ecu piduna
juraru supra of li spati.
Po ', mannaru un curreri a la Curuna:
Semu cca, all ready and good armed
in sirvimentu of the Sacred Curuna,
in defense of your Maistati.

The church remained open for worship until the early 1800s, today it is in ruins; inside there was a statue of St. Peter in the chair (attributed to Domenico Gagini) today in the Mother Church.

THE HILL OF SAN VITALE
In addition to a wonderful view that is lost in sight, it is possible to admire the remains of an Arab windmill and two castles, of Arab and Norman origin. Also on the cliff are the church of the Madonna dell’Udienza and the church of Giudice Giusto. The first, of Greek-Byzantine origin, for centuries was the old Matrix (12th century). It shows a Greek cross shape and is believed to be the oldest in Castronovo. The works of art that were allocated there were transferred to the Mother Church of the SS. Trinity. The apse, the choir with three altars and the Greek baptismal font are preserved from the ancient structure. With the title Chiesa del Giudice Giusto, a small Norman jewel, perhaps the ancient pre-existing church entitled  to St. George of the Greeks. Of Byzantine origin, it was used as a hospice and Gangia by the monks of Santo Stefano di Melia. Manfredi Chiaramonte was responsible for its first restoration in 1375. In the apses there are still some frescoes, while an "apse bowl" has been transferred to the church of the Madonna del Rosario.

CONVENT OF THE CAPPUCCINI CHURCH OF S. MARIA DELLA BAGNARA
The first documented presence of the Capuchins in Sicily dates back to 1533 and is recorded in Castronovo. The ancient convent stood in the open countryside, three miles away from the town. The place was inclement and could damage the health of the friars, so much so as to induce them in 1609 to abandon the religious structure. The new convent was built in 1610 in the Rakalbiat district following a donation of the fiefdom of Gefalmuto by the benefactor Girolamo Bottoneri, dedicated to St. Nicholas of Bari. The religious complex was the forge of many friars who with their sanctification works have given prestige to the convent: among these we remember S. Bernardo da Corleone. Another religious figure who worked between 1920 and 1950 was that of Fra Vitale Lino, well-liked and loved by all for his kindness and love for his neighbor, who died in the odor of holiness in a chapel adjacent to the convent; his body is kept there in a mausoleum made of yellow Castronovo marble. Today the convent, thanks to the intelligent and active opening of Father Federico, the current guardian, has been transformed into a Franciscan Oasis. The structure periodically hosts prayer groups from various parts of Sicily. The religious complex has a playground for children and a space used for theatrical events. The adjoining church is dedicated to the Heavenly Mother “S. Maria la Bagnara ", has a single nave with a right apse, without a transept and has a longitudinal plan. Among the vain works of art, remember a 17th century wooden tabernacle with a grandiose cross attributed to Friar Agostino Li Volsi, and to Fra Vincenzo Coppola from Trapani; a three-storey tabernacle richly decorated with inlays, carvings with volutes and floral motifs and twisted columns; a statue of the Madonna della Bagnara by an unknown artist from the 17th century, whose cult was carried by the Norman conquerors; a processional "launch" of the Assumption made by Michele Pace and Vito Butera, Castronovese artisans; a painting, depicting St. Rosalia, attributed to Fra Fedele da San Biagio Platani; and still other canvases made by local artists.

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