Santo Stefano Quisquina
The name of the town derives from the Greek στέφανος (pronounced stéfanos), crown, as it is crowned by the Sicani mountains: it was thus decided to consecrate the town to Santo Stefano Protomartire. Quisquina, on the other hand, is the name of the wooded area that surrounds the town: the name derives from the Arabic term coschin, meaning darkness, due to the density of its woods. In the past, the town was first called "Santo Stefano di Melia" (current district of the territory of Castronovo di Sicilia), later "Santo Stefano di Bivona" (due to its close proximity to Bivona, an ancient duchy and capital of the Bourbon district); the current name, "Santo Stefano Quisquina", was definitively assumed in 1863.
Santo Stefano Quisquina was born as an agro-pastoral village around the springs of Capo Favara. It rises 732 meters above sea level and is 73 km from Agrigento. Before its foundation, some documents attest to the existence of a Sancti Stephani farmhouse as early as the 10th century, whose territory at the time of the King of Sicily Roger II, was owned by the Sinibaldi (relatives of Santa Rosalia), lords of Quisquina and Mount of Roses. In 1296, at the time of the Kingdom of Sicily with King Federico III, Giovanni di Caltagirone appears as the first lord of Santo Stefano. Many noble families ruled Santo Stefano: the Larcan, who in 1559 sold the barony and most of its assets to the Protonotaro of the Kingdom of Sicily Alfonso Ruiz, who made a gift of the barony to his mother Elisabetta in 1574. Being this wife of Carlo Ventimiglia di Belmonte , in 1599 all rights passed to the Ventimiglia family. These ruled for a long time, and during their reign the country had a demographic and building development. During the 1700s they had important works rebuilt such as the Baronial Castle and the Mother Church. In 1812, with the enactment of the new Constitution of the Kingdom of Sicily, the town became part of the new District of Bivona and on 4 January 1863 it definitively assumed the name of S. Stefano Quisquina after being first called S. Stefano di Melia and then S. Stefano di Bivona.
Hermitage of Santa Rosalia alla Quisquina
The hermitage of Santa Rosalia alla Quisquina is a construction along the slopes of Mount Quisquina in the territory of Santo Stefano Quisquina, an Italian town in the province of Agrigento, in Sicily.
The hermitage was built near the cave in which Saint Rosalia, the virgin from Palermo, took refuge for most of the life. In a cave camouflaged by the hardly accessible vegetation, the very young Rosalia, fleeing the worldly life and in search of solitude, peace and above all God, found a home for twelve years (probably from 1150 to 1162).
The history of the hermitage begins in 1624, when, a few weeks after the discovery of the remains of the Saint in the cave of Mount Pellegrino in Palermo, two Palermo masons on 25 August found the cave and the epigraph in the centuries-old Quisquina wood; a chapel was immediately built nearby. A few years later, the Genoese merchant Francesco Scassi, learns about the history of Santa Rosalia and the cave, so he decided to come to Sicily and invest all his money in the construction of the Hermitage. After building the church, cells, a kitchen and a stable, he decided to retire and live with three other men here in this hermitage he built. These will found an independent congregation of friars devoted to Santa Rosalia which over time will become completely self-sufficient: the oil mill, the granary, the shoemaker, the carpentry and whatever else is inside the Hermitage. During the eighteenth century the Quisquina hermitage is one of the most renowned in all of Sicily, it was visited by bishops, princes and cardinals and is also the subject of their donations.
The fame and prosperity brought to the Hermitage many new friars so the Ventimiglia, Barons of Santo Stefano, proceed to expand and enrich the structure, with this intervention the Hermitage will be able to accommodate up to a hundred friars. In reality the friars proper are never more than ten so the novices had to pass a period of probation before becoming effective members of the congregation. This selection is necessary given the variety of people who came to the Hermitage, in fact alongside the devotees came the children of the poorest families in the area or even criminals and bandits who, within the order, would have enjoyed religious asylum. For this last factor the internal structure of the Hermitage changes completely.
At the end of the 19th century, numerous episodes contributed to the decline of the congregation and the few remaining true religious were outweighed. This episode of decline ended in 1928 when the congregation was dissolved and the friars expelled from the structure. But the friars actually remained at the Hermitage the last known hermit is Fra Vicè (Vincenzo) who lived in solitude the last years of his life living on alms and what the people of the neighboring countries offered him, died in 1986. at the age of 98. Today the Hermitage is entrusted to the management of the Pro Loco of Santo Stefano Quisquina.
Thanks to the interest of Prince Ventimiglia, some fragments of the Saint's relics were given to the Stefanesi on 25 September 1625, which were placed in a half-length portrait depicting Santa Rosalia. The bust is kept in an artistic chapel in the mother church and is taken every year on foot pilgrimage to the hermitage on the Tuesday following the first Sunday in June.
This theater was built by a pastor artist named Lorenzo Reina who created a circular stage in a panoramic area of the city and seats made up of stone blocks reproducing the shape of the stars of the Andromeda constellation hence the name and the number of seats equal to the stars of the constellation. The theater is enjoying great success, even being presented at the 16th edition of the International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale.
At the summer solstice, the shadow of the sun projected by a disk placed behind the stage projects a circle that coincides with a circular black space on the stage. In the same way, a ray of sunlight passes through the mouth of a sculpture at sunset.
It is also called the highest stone theater in the world due to the fact that it is located at an altitude of about 900 meters.