Calascibetta (formerly Calatascibetta, Calataxibetta) is a town of 4,826 inhabitants near Enna, Sicily. It’s on Mount Xibet, on the border of the Val di Noto, in the heart of Sicily
Its location has always been a strong point for the town and its people: it’s almost equidistant from the three seas that surround the island.
Calascibetta offers a unique history, different from its surroundings. The old town still maintains its medieval plan and has Norman origins linked to Ruggero D’Altavilla (Altavilla), from whom the town received its first great contribution toward urban growth.
In the past the town had an outstanding and completely different role from today 's. A special law gave it privileges and allowances reserved only to few other cities in Sicily, the so-called right of ”Legazia Apostolica” or “Monarchia Sicula”
This Royal right in Sicily, was applicable only to State cities and it was considered "the most precious gem of the Kings of Sicily", thanks to which, from the 11th century to 1929, the sovereigns of the island operated their system of ecclesiastic Government, the so called "Monarchia Sicula". Calascibetta had many benefits because of this, among them the 24th place in order of importance in the Sicilian Parliament.
As Sicily boasts the oldest Parliament in Europe, our town used to have constant and special relationships with the Royal power.
The city was one of the 57 Jewish communities of Sicily. Jews lived there from the early 14th century, in a “giudecca” or ‘ghetto’ outside the city, and they were involved in business, usury and crafts. No doubt their presence was indicative of the high living standards of the city.
The first documented archaeological finds in Sicily concern the territory of Calascibetta and date back to November 1456, when the Viceroy Antonio Raffo Spatafora, ordered excavations “Appressu la porta versu Castrogiovanni ...". "outside the gate to Castrogiovanni” Its appreciable archaeological, artistic and historical heritage is known to few, its findings are scattered in various museums in Sicily, of course appreciated, but not really evaluated until now.
The presence of mankind in this area has been documented since the bronze age thanks to the artifacts in the museums of Enna and Syracuse. The present town centre shows clear and well-preserved signs e.g. the urban structure of the Troglodyte age and small traces of the Byzantine one.
In 851 C.E. a small Arabic settlement was founded on top of Mount Xibet, The name Calatxibet derives from the Arabic: the prefix "Càlat" means natural fortress, followed by the name of the mount, Xibet, thus "Calascibetta". At the beginning of the 11th century, when the Arabs were ousted from the fortress, the Normans settled there, led by Count Ruggero d'altavilla, son of Tancred, who chose it for the thirty year siege of Enna. Today the Norman Tower, also known as the Bell Tower of S. Pietro, is visible proof of this..
The Normans were followed by the Aragonese with King Peter II of Aragon, who, in 1340, built the Cappella Palatina, the second in importance of Sicily, providing it with more lands. The original cave houses were later built over, hiding them from view. There are many quarries and caves, sometimes linked carved into the rock, homes of a Troglodyte civilization. These traces of ancient settlements, of undoubted value, indicate a unique urban structure
Up until 1818, Calascibetta, as free city, had the leadership and authority over seven other towns: Valguarnera, Villarosa, Villapriolo, Santa Caterina Villarmosa, Caltanissetta and San Cataldo. During the Spanish domination several new churches and monasteries of cultural and architectural value flourished, . The uniqueness of this city is also evident in its ancient road system, still partly preserved. There were twelve “regie trazzere" (the word "trazzera" means straight road but in this case they were wide rights of way) that led from Calascibetta; they were at least 36 mt. wide, and spread in a radial pattern, linking the town with the three seas that surround Sicily..
The regia trazzera Calascibetta-Palagonia, for example, passes only 7.5 Km from the ancient city of Morgantina (Aidone), and follows the ancient Greek Syracuse - Thermai (Termini Imerese) road. The Calascibetta-Licata road joined the town with the Mediterranean port, considered by the Spanish the "loading bay", where goods from the Centre of Sicily were brought and shipped abroad by the traders who flourished along the coast of the island.
These old “trazzere” are an example of the ancient roads that the Normans reorganised after the Arabic domination.
A few kilometers from Calascibetta, there are several archaeological areas, recently rediscovered and replanted by the Forestry Department. The local hills and valleys in places still wild, hide fresh water springs, ruins of sulphur mines, watermills, watersheds and ancient stone troughs made by local stonemasons using the characteristic local stone called "cutu" (compact sandstone)..
COAT of ARMS
Si ringrazia per la traduzione Rita Stivale e Margaret Murphy