THE ARABIAN “KASTRA NISSA”

Caltanissetta started life under Arabian rule, whilst its true origins remain a mystery. In its surrounding areas there are many villages to visit that remind us of the ancient role of the city, an important mining centre in the Mediterranean area.

History

Caltanissetta’s historical origins are not documented under any certain form. Located on the inland of the Island, today the city is one of the most important mining towns whilst in the past it was a small Greek, then Roman village. Caltanissetta enters into the history books in 829 with the Arabian conquest, when it became “Kastra Nissa”. The Normans, Svevi, Angioines and Aragonese ruled it up until the period of the Sicilian dominions. In 1406, it was passed over to the Moncada di Paternò family and remained under their rule until the end of the seventeenth century. In the centuries that followed, and more specifically after the fifteenth century, the city underwent new urban development outside of the city walls and therefore changed its residential structure. In 1860, it was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy and in the following years underwent an important economic boom, due to its intense mining activity.

The city and its monuments

In Caltanissetta you can visit: the Cathedral, with its unique and striking facade, frescos and statues; Palazzo Moncada, where building began in 1625 but was never finished; the churches of San Sebastiano, Sant’Agata al Collegio, which is particularly interesting due to the works of art inside; Piazza Garibaldi, with the Fontana del Tritone in the centre. A visit must also be paid to the Quartiere Degli Angeli, the oldest part of Caltanissetta, with its fifteenth century church of San Domenico and the Castello di Pietrarossa, built by the Arabs in their own particular style.  Our visit to the city continues with: the Abbazia di Santo Spirito, the oldest church in the province, built before 1151; Monte San Giuliano, where it is possible to see the Monumento al Redentore, made in 1900 and from where you can see views of Etna to the Madonne. Amongst the museums there is: the Mineralogical, Palientological and Sulphur Museum, the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art and the Museum of Folklore and Popular Traditions.

The geographical area

Setting off from Caltanissetta we arrive at Monte Sabucina where there is an archaeological area with the remains of a Greek Sicilian settlement and then the town of Marianopoli. Founded by the Baron Della Scala at the beginning of the 1700’s with the aim of colonising the Feudo Marchi, it is known for its Archaeological Museum that exhibits prehistorical findings from Monte Castellazzo, other Bronze Age findings from Balate and from the Valle Oscura necropolis. Gibil Gabel is a locality with Arabian origins, characterised by numerous necropolis dug out from the rock. San Cataldo is an important mining town, famous for its Vassallaggi archaeological area and for the church Chiesa dei Padri Mercenari.  Finally, Mussomeli is built on a hill in a panoramic position and its houses are built so closely together that they leave little room for its narrow streets. It would appear that Castello Manfredonico, which is built behind it on its very own rock, controls the village.  The building and rock become one and the main built part mixes in which nature, creating a striking effect.

 

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