Caltabelotta is poised high up in the Monti Sicani: a privileged position which has proven to be strategic for over two thousand years. Traces of the bronze age are still visible in the necropolis and the mysterious stone altars: some believe this to be the site of the Sican town of Inycon and others claim it to be the legendary Kamikos. Either way, in the 6th century BC the Greeks called it Triokala, referring to its three virtues: natural defence, fresh water and fertile land. In the 2nd century (103-98 AD), Triokala was one of the principal theatres of the rivolt of the salves against against Rome and the city was completely destroyed by the Romans. The site was soon repopulated and in the mid 1st century AD it became one of the first sicilian bishopdoms, status which it maintained until the byzantine era. Under Arabian rule, in the 9th century, the town became Qualat-Al-Ballut (Oak fortress), from which the modern name of Caltabelotta derives.
The Arabs were succeeded by the Normans, who built various churches and an imposing castle where the historic peace treaty of 1302 (La Pace di Caltabelotta) was signed which ended the war for the sicilian island waged by the French (Angioini) and the Spanish (Aragonesi). The austere facade of the Norman Cathedral at the centre of the immense piazza starkly contrasts with the renaissance-style stuccoes by Gagini and Ferraro within. Not far is another, smaller Norman church, Chiesa del SS. Salvatore, with a small ogival portal. Another fascinating church, partly hewn out of the rock, is the little Chiesa Rupestre della Pietà, possibly of Byzantine origins. The Church of Sant’Agostino, located at the foot of the cliffs called Rupe Gogàla, dates from the 14th century even though it has a clearly baroque-style portal.
Inside the church there are two precious treasures: a polichrome sculpture depicting the Deposition of Christ by Ferraro and the simulacrum of Maria dei SS.Miracoli to which a feast is dedicated on each fourth Sunday of July. The Eremo di San Pellegrino lies high above the town and dates from the 16th century. It was built over two caves where it is said that San Pellegrino had dwelled after he had freed the town from the ferocious dragon which terrorized its inhabitants. In the central Piazza Umberto I, the Chiesa del Carmine or Chiesa Madre Nuova houses in the altar a splendid sixteenth-century statue of the “Madonna delle Grazie” by Antonello Gagini.
The old Sinagogue has recently been turned into a Civic Museum of modern art and now houses a collection of extraordinary sculptures by Salvatore Rizzuti, a contemporary artist who finely expresses the cultural themes of Sicily in his works of art. Do not miss to visit the Tecne sculpture workshop of the master Rizzuti, open from May to September: if you are lucky you can meet and appreciate the great sculptor at work.
Caltabellotta: distance from Agrigento approx. 40km
Art & Faith Paths: the Hermitage of S. Pellegrino, the Cathedral and the Church of Pietà are open every day from April and throughout the summer period from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm – from 3:30 pm to 7:00 pm with guided tours organized by the Peregrinus Cultural Association.
Contacts of organizations and associations which offer tourist information and other useful services:
Cultural Association Peregrinus: guided tour
Caltabelotta: the coordinates indicate Piazza Umberto I
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N 37° 34' 37.02''
E 13° 12' 57.68''
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