Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Nestled in the mountains between Enna and the northern coast of Sicily is the town of Castelbuono. This village grew up around a castle built in 1316 by Francisco Ventimiglia, the Marquis of Geraci. The town did not prosper financially until the 19th Century because the residents remained under the feudal control of the Ventimiglia lords until the abolition of feudalism in 1812. The result today is a charming village of simple buildings clustered around piazzas and winding narrow streets on the hillside. When we visited Castelbuono preparations were being made for the feast of St. Anne, the town’s patron. The street from the castle to the cathedral was decorated with overhead lights, a stage for performances was being erected in Piazza Margarita and vendor stalls were being set up for the celebration.
Dominating the town is the Ventimiglia Castle. It was at first a holiday home, but after the town grew up around it, it became the family’s primary residence. In the early 20th Century the residents of Castelbuono bought the castle from the Ventimiglias and today it houses a museum with a changing exhibit of contemporary art a well as several rooms of religious objects from the 17th Century, mostly related to St. Anne.
The surprise of the castle is its baroque chapel, containing a relic that is supposedly the skull of St. Anne. (The story is that the relic had been with the Ventimiglia family for six centuries before being transferred to the castle. It was immediately stolen, but recovered in 1615 and then made safe behind a strong iron grating on the altar. On July 26th it leaves it’s secure home and is taken out in procession.)
The chapel is fascinating work of stucco sculpture by Giàcomo Serpotta.

The Old Cathedral: Matrice Vecchia
The cathedral was originally built in the 14th century on the remains of a pagan temple and today, under a recently reconstructed ceiling we discovered some interesting works of religious art.

Recent restoration has uncovered a fresco of the “Consecration of the Virgin” next to the sacristy door. I especially like the two angels peering over the top of the chair to see the action, and God the Father atop a lunette of red seraphs. (You can tell that they are seraphim because they each have six wings.)

The crypt walls are covered with 16th and 17th Century frescoes depicting the passion of Christ beginning with the Last Supper.

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