A Summary of Poggioreale's History
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In 1642, under the Spanish dominance of Italy and Sicily, the life of a new community on the island of Sicily began to which the name "Poggioreale" was given. It arose under Pope Urban VIII during the reign of His Majesty Phillip IV of Spain, King of Naples and Sicily.
In its early days, Poggioreale was not a town; it was more of a small and attractive community. It has been written by multiple historians that its name was chosen to reflect its geographical location as well as its beauty. "Poggio" means small referring to the small mountain, and "reale" means royal. These names reflect its position at the base of historic Mount Elimo, now called Mount Castellaccio, that allows one to enjoy an extensive panorama which, with its variety of soils and agriculture, presents a magnificent natural beauty to satisfy the eyes of a king. For those us who have visited the ruins of Poggioreale in modern times, as one surveys the land below the town, the view from the top still provides a beautiful, hilly vista that is textured with colorful patterns of agricultural plantings that are simply stunning. We implore you to visit for yourself and to fill your soul with the views that our own ancestors enjoyed every day of their lives.
The first homes of Poggioreale were built at two-thirds of the mountain's height, in an area where the terrain is relatively flat and gently sloped on the right and left sides. In the beginning stage of the town's construction, the Marquis de Gibellina built 200 brick homes for the nobles. In this appealing location, the altitude is 400 meters above sea level; the climate is mild, and in the winter there is little hail, snow, or freezing temperatures. Mount Castellaccio protects the town from more serious elements.
The town is connected to the Noble Family Morso/Naselli whose names were important in the Courts of Spain, Naples, and Sicily. This family was given permission to construct homes for the nobles; as a result, Signor Marquis D. Francesco M. Morso ordered the construction of houses on the upper plane, underneath the hill, and gave its name as described above. In 1643 King Phillip IV elevated this collection of houses to the status of principality to the Marquis Morso in recognition for his part in promoting the construction of the new town.
Historical writers tell us that the town was divided into four sections, crossed from west to east by Via Umberto I (once called Aragona) which is intersected by Via Castellazzo from the north and to the south by Via Passo D'Antoni. Piazza Elimo was built as a rectangle that inclined slightly to the south and measured 61.5 by 32.5 meters, lined with attractive houses and having 4 outlets to streets on the east ad west sides.
Buildings were added over many decades and centuries. In 1956, author and scholarly priest Francesco Aloisio wrote extensively about various buildings that were built in Poggioreale up to the publication of his book in 1956, and discusses various buildings in detail. We are lucky to have the Aloisio book to give us a good idea of what Poggioreale and its churches looked like before the earthquake. Prior to the Aloisio book, author and scholarly priest Nunzio Caronna wrote two books, one in 1901 and another in 1906, in which he describes the churches in detail. Please refer to our "Books about Poggioreale" page on this website for details.
Until the end of August 1875, the dead were buried inside the churches. The Monastery of the Capuchins had a proper sepulcher in a large room flanking the north of the church. In the Mother Church and the churches of the Purgatorio, Gesu and Maria, and of the Adoration the dead were buried inside the chamber under the floor of the nave. That year, the Town Counsel decided to create a town cemetery the first burial in the new cemetery took place on September 1, 1875. In the years 1879 - 1902, the construction of a new cemetery was voted but dragged on until construction was begun in 1908; it wasn't renovated until 1955.
And so Poggioreale continued its thriving life until the devastating earthquake of 1968.