Capital of the homonymous Sicilian province, it has about sixty-three thousand inhabitants. It rises to the left of the Salso, in the area between the Matarazzo and Pisciacane mountains, in the Erei Mountains region, on the slopes of Monte San Giuliano. Located in the Sicilian hinterland, in terms of resident population it is the ninth largest city in Sicily, and second in the province after Gela. Its inhabitants are called Nisseni. Let’s start our tour in spectacular Caltanissetta!
Cattedrale di Santa Maria La Nova
The Cathedral, dedicated to Santa Maria la Nova (to distinguish it from the mother church which, in the sixteenth century was built at the foot of the Pietrarossa castle) stands on the stage of Piazza Garibaldi. It was built between 1570 and 1620 and was only open to the public in 1622.
The building has a large facade, divided by pilasters flanked by two bell towers. Although the facade with its white and yellow Sabucina stone color is not very scenographic, it contains a grandiose series of frescoes that decorate the central nave.
The interior, with a Latin cross layout, is divided into three naves supported by fourteen arches, each dedicated to a character from the Old Testament. At the intersection of the two arms of the cross, above the altar, there is a dome, from which a large wooden crucifix descends suspended.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria la Nova, in Piazza Garibaldi, was born by the will of the citizens of Caltanissetta. Inside it is decorated with a series of frescoes by the famous Flemish painter Borremans.
Pietrarossa Castle is an 11th century fortress that stands close to the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, in the old Arab quarter of Caltanissetta. It is one of the most important and relevant castles in Sicily from the Norman era to the Spanish. It is not known with absolute certainty of the period in which the Castle of Pietrarossa was built but it seems that it already existed in 1806, the year in which Roger II conquered the city of Caltanissetta.
The Castle takes its name from the stone that was used to make it and still today part of this stone is visible.
According to history, Pietrarossa Castle was built by the Arabs and was surrounded by large expanses of crops. It was also called the Castle of women because of the fact that for some periods of time men spent their days in the fields leaving women alone in the Castle. The walls of the Castle were spectators of numerous events in Sicilian history.
The Castle enjoys an undoubtedly singular position, suspended between the sea and the sky. The plan of the castle winds over three levels and consists of three towers, the central one of which (larger than the other two) is built on a rock divided by a crack.
Gibil-Gabib Archeological Site
5 km south-west of Caltanissetta, dominating the valley of the river Salso from the west, Gibil-Gabib, the name given by the Arabs to indicate “the city of the dead”, gives the opportunity to immerse yourself in the remains of important and vast cultural complexes, as well as archaic and classical dwelling systems.
The site, which stands on a hill 615 meters high, has been investigated with excavation activities already in the mid-800s, to then see the work of the archaeologist Dinu Adamesteanu in the 1950s. The area is spread over three platforms sloping south-east: it is an indigenous center later Hellenized, perhaps the ancient Nice from which Caltanissetta would have derived.
A hut from the Bronze Age is still visible on the plateau of the hill, while defensive works dating back to the 6th century BC. C. are facing the Sarso River. At the foot of the hill, two necropolises have brought back some Sicilian pottery. The excavations have returned numerous finds such as: vases, everyday objects, plates and lamps found in the rooms together with a terracotta statue of a female divinity and a terracotta offerer head which testify to the existence in the inhabited area of various spaces dedicated to worship and veneration.
At the foot of the hill there were two necropolises from which the kits come with Siceliot ceramic with red figures.
Few, but tormenting, the ruins observable in the three terraces that make up the site.
The mineralogical and paleontological museum of Caltanissetta
The mineralogical and paleontological museum of the Zolfara di Caltanissetta, unique of its kind in the south of Italy, documents the mining activity of the ancient sulfur mines and houses a rich collection of minerals and fossils, and a permanent exhibition dedicated to mining technology for the extraction of the sulfur of Sicily.
In the province of Caltanissetta there are still several extraction plants that have fallen into disuse but are well preserved. In addition to the collection of important sulphiferous chalky minerals, rare rocks and fossils, the museum also preserves some vintage tools used in the life of mines, such as extraction castles, wagons used for the transport of minerals, ovens ” “Gill” “.
Particularly interesting is the reconstruction in scale of a section of a mine, where it is possible to recognize the galleries, the extraction well and the furnaces. The museum also preserves a rich series of geological maps of Sicily.
The minerals on display, in particular sulphur samples are of great rarity and beauty, as well as in a great variety of shapes, structure, crystalline grouping and transparency. These are the testimony of the past exploitation of the various mines for the extraction of sulfur present in the Nissian territory and beyond. Furthermore, among the pieces acquired through exchange and donation policies, they stand out for their particular value and mineralogical rarity.
Church of Sant’Agata
A very scenic church in Caltanissetta, located on Corso Umberto I, is the Church of Sant’Agata, which occupies an entire block.
The church was commissioned by Donna Luisa Moncada de Luna and her son Francesco for the Jesuits, called to Caltanissetta to improve the cultural formation of the young generations of the middle class.
The author of the project was the Jesuit architect Pietro Vinci and the greatest artists of the time worked inside: Marabitti, who took care of the sculptural decorations of the portal; the Serpotta brothers, who took care of the colored stucco coating of the walls; the Palermo workers of the highest quality who made two beautiful antependiums of inlays of marble and precious stones from the side altars.
The Greek cross interior is decorated with columns with “mixed marble”, with frescoes (notable ones by Borremans in the chapel of Sant’Anna), with marble bas-reliefs (such as the large altarpiece dedicated to Saint Ignatius of Loyola ) and paintings by Agostino Scilla and Vincenzo Roggeri.
Restored in 1950 by the Nissian artist Luigi Garbato on commission from the Civil Engineer on the occasion of the Jubilee year, with the task of replacing and repainting from scratch the frescoes, the transept, the presbytery, the central vault, the nave and the side chapels , paintings by the Sozzi brothers from Catania. The 1950s frescoes deal with Eucharistic themes with chimeric decoration in fake marble.
The Museum of Sacred Art of Caltanissetta
The Museum of Sacred Art of Caltanissetta or Diocesan Museum of Caltanissetta or “Special” Diocesan Museum is named after the memory of Monsignor Giovanni Speciale who was its creator and founder in 1983. It is housed in 10 rooms and 2 corridors on the ground floor of the building of the Episcopal seminary of the Nissian city.
There are valuable works of sacred art such as paintings, fabrics, goldsmiths, sculptures and various sacred furnishings, coming from the territory of the diocese.
After substantial renovation and expansion works, in 2007 was reopened to the public with an extension that occupies the entire ground floor of the monumental Episcopal Palace. It displays more than five hundred works of art ranging from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century: paintings, sculptures, silver, liturgical vestments and artefacts of applied art, coming from the churches of the Nissian Diocese (Caltanissetta, Bompensiere, Calascibetta, seat of the Royal Chapel, Mussomeli , Santa Caterina Villarmosa, Sutera), thus offering an overview of the various artistic and cultural realities in the area and tracing the history of the local church as a community of believers who celebrate and express their faith by embellishing the sacred places with altarpieces, furnishings and precious vestments.
Today, in the ancient wing there are six rooms with dated sacred relics, while in the modern wing there are the library, the conference room and other exhibition rooms of modern sacred art.
The Abbey of Santo Spirito
The Abbey of Santo Spirito of Caltanissetta is the oldest church in Caltanissetta.
It is a small church of Norman origin, commissioned by Roger II, with a simple structure and a single nave. Inside there are many interesting works, including a baptismal font, of great and valuable importance, dating back to the Norman era, carved in a block of tuff stone, in which Arab drawings have been carved depicting stylized palm trees and pointed arches. Above the baptismal font there is the “Crucifix of the Staglio” dating back to the fifteenth century.
According to the local historian Santagati, the place where the Norman abbey of Santo Spirito stands today was a place of worship already in the Byzantine era, as the dedication to the Holy Spirit suggests. The Sicilian churches of Byzantine origin, in fact, are often dedicated to the Holy Spirit, to San Basilio or San Nicola, while those of Norman origin to the Madonna, to San Pietro or to the other apostles.
In any case, it now seems certain that the current library was once an Arab cottage, incorporated into the Norman structure.
Palazzo Moncada (also known as Palazzo Bauffremont) is a historic palace in Caltanissetta, which belonged to the Moncada family of the Paternò princes branch.
It was built around 1651 by the will of Prince Luigi Guglielmo I Moncada, also a feudal lord of the Nissian county, on a design by the Palermo architect Carlo D’Aprile. The works for its construction began in 1625, but were stopped due to the Sicilian political vicissitudes that concerned the prince of Paternò himself.
In 1720, during the uprising, the rebels damaged some of the ground floor environments by setting the municipal archive on fire.
In the early 19th century, the building now owned by the Bauffremont family became the seat of the Court. In the first half of the twentieth century it was purchased by the Marquis Trigona della Floresta.
Since 2010, new rooms of the building used as an art gallery have also been opened to host exhibitions of various kinds and extemporaneous events. Here there are two permanent exhibitions: one on the ancient lords of Caltanissetta, the Moncadas, and the other dedicated to the great Nissian sculptor Michele Tripisciano and his museum.