Enna

 

 

Situated on beautiful plateau, Enna is called the “lookout of Sicily” or the “navel of Sicily” being the centre of the island and the highest capital of an Italian province at 948m.  Founded by the Sicani, long before the Greeks who developed then developed the Greek colony of Henna. It became the centre of the Greek cult of Demeter (Ceres to the Romans), the fertility goddess (the Rocca di Cerere at the extreme East end of the town, beyond the Castello di Lombardia was the site of a temple erected in 480 BC, but there are no visible remains ).

 

Became a Roman town 135BC the First Slave War erupted here prompted by the Syrian slave Euno Eunus  (there is a statue to Eunus below the castle ramparts, the revolt being a symbol of modern civic pride)

 

The Saracens spent 20 yrs trying to take Enna, and eventually resorted to crawling in through the sewers in 859. The Normans also went to great lengths to take the town, capturing it in 1087 and renaming it Castrogiovanni. Enna was always the last town to be taken in the invasions.

 

By the 13th C the Swabian king Frederick ll had control and it was he who ordered the massive fortifications dominating the Easternmost spur of the town, the Castello di Lombardia (cf. museum notes). His wife, Eleonora, founded the Duomo in 1307 - rebuilt several times, it has a baroque facade and a spacious 16th C interior with huge alabaster columns, grotesquely carved. The unusually rich treasury of the Duomo is housed in the Museo Alessi (cf. museum notes).

 

During the 19th and early 20th Centuries the town was a centre for Sulphur mining, as witnessed by the statue of Napoleone Colajanni (outside the Grand Hotel), a man who did much to improve the welfare of Sicilian sulphur miners. The island was the World’s largest producer of the mineral -used in metal smelting- until WWII, this industry has since declined due to lack of investment. Since then Enna has retained its status as the largest and the only university town away from the coast and is now a centre for finance and service industries. The relative prosperity of Enna is reflected in the growth of the modern town  Enna Bassa and can be observed at the celebrated evening passeggiata when the medieval cobbled Via Roma is packed with extraordinarily smartly dressed pedestrians - hiking boots are definitely not in!

 

Easter Holy Week celebrations in Enna are the most important on the island culminating on Good Friday when thousands march in silent procession behind 70 men dressed in the white hooded costumes of the medieval fraternities, each fraternity taking it in turn to carry the marble statues of first the prone deceased Christ and later of Our Lady of Sorrows.

 

Castello di Lombardi

Open 8 am till 1 hour before dusk

Situated on East most point of Enna, the site has been fortified since earliest times because of its strategic position.  Under Norman dominion, the castle was reinforced. It was made habitable by Frederick II Aragon, who added a number of rooms that rendered it suitable.  It was here that He was crowned King of Trinacria and in 1324, convocated the Sicilian parliament.  The name of the castle dates back to the same period linked to the presence of a garrison of Lombard soldiers posted there to defend it. The ground plan is of pentagonal which follows the lay of the land. Of the 20 towers only 6 remain. The most interesting and complete tower is called La Pisana or Torre delle Aquile (The Pisan Tower or of the Eagles).

Under the Spanish control in the 16th and 17th century, Enna strategic importance was diminished and the castle was used a prison. It fell in a bad state of despair,  in the 20th century, archaeologist Paolo Orsi began excavation and restoration work.

 

Rocca di Cerere

Stands the Fortress of Ceres just below the LombardCastle.  Once stood the temple dedicated to the Fertility Goddess Dimitri and her daughter Persephone.  Although nothing remains of the temple it is supposed that it was the site for ritual sacrifices to the Goddess a place where ceremonies were celebrated and worshipped her, in the hope of good harvest.

 

Duomo

Built in 1307 by Eleanor the wife of Frederick III.  A fire destroyed majority of the church in 1447, the Gothic apses and the Gothic pointed-arch portal set in the wall the right of transept remain. Rebuilt in Baroque style in the 16C and 17C.

 

The interior is divided into 3 aisles by columns of black basalt, each with finely sculptured bases and capitals.  The coffered ceiling is finely inlaid, and graced at the end of each beam by unusual winged figures.  At the end of the aisle, the organ loft  and wooden choir, built between 1582 and 1592 carved from walnut wood,  the choir is decorated with small panels portraying the scenes from the old and new testament, and niches containing statues of Christ and the twelve Apostles.  Above the alter hangs a fine 15C Christ on the Cross with, on the reverse, a painting of the Resurrection; this is called the Christ of the Three Faces because Christ’s expression appears to alter depending on the angle from which the painting is contemplated.

 

San Michele Arcangelo

Erected 1658, probably on the site of old mosque, the church of the Archangel Michael has a square façade.

 

Santa Chiara

The church is now a memorial to fallen soldiers.

 

Torre di Federico/Frederick’s Tower

At one time, Enna might have been called the city of towers.  Many have disappeared, many have been incorporated into churches as bell towers; only a few survive as free-standing towers today.

The octagonal tower is named after Frederick II of Swabia.

 

Museo Alessi

Entrance at the back of Duomo, open 8.00am to 8.00pm Closed 1 Jan, 1 May and 25 Dec. Cost Euro 2.60

The museum was created in 1862 to house the collections fo Canon Alessi, which includes 17C and 18C sacred vestments embroidered with gold thread and coral (in the basement).  On the upper floor there’s a selection of paintings a Madonna and Child by an unknown 15C Flemish painter. The first floor a canvas by Giuseppe Salerno (Zoppo di Gangi) together with  the glorious treasure from the Chiesa Madre which consists of sacred relics, a fabulous Madonna’s crown exquisitely enamelled and engraved (17C) a magnificent 17C pelican jewel – symbol of the Sacrifice of the Resurrection for Eternal Life.

 

Museo Archeologico Varisano

Piazza Mazzini, open 8.00am to 7.30pm, cost Euro 2.00

On display are the archaeological finds, mainly in terracotta, recovered from the necropolis at Calascibetta, Capodarso, Pergusa, Cozzo Matrice and Rossomano.

 

Calascibetta

The town is only a few kilometres North of Enna, which benefit from the glorious setting,  it has a natural amphitheatre nestled in the rocky hollow on the side of a hill, the town was found during the Arab occupation. Fortified by Count Roger in his successful attempt to take Enna in 1087 and still retains a strongly Arabic and medieval feel in its narrowly twisting cobbled streets. Poorer and much more subdued than its larger neighbour, it comes to life during the vendemmia when carts and 'apes' full of grapes jam the lanes and the smell of fermentation is intoxicating !

 

Nearby the town in the direction of Villapriolo, the road passes the rock-cut tombs of the necropolis of Realmes  dating to 4C BC.

 

Lago di Pegusa

9 km South of Enna, en route to Piazza Armerina the legendary site of Hades' abduction of Persephone to the underworld the tradition says that Persephone, surrounded by her nymphs, was gathering flowers (asphodels) on the lush banks of the lake when Hades having admired her beauty emerged from beneath the water and spirited her away. Demeter searched in vain for her daughter and her grief prevented the grain from growing. To settle the matter, Zeus (father of Persephone) ruled that Persephone should spend half of the year as queen of the underworld, living for the other half in Sicily with her mother. Prior to releasing her Hades gave her three pomegranite seeds (the ancient Greek equivalent of exchanging of marriage rings) thus bonding her to him and assuring her return. In her gratitude, Demeter, as goddess of grain and agriculture, made the corn grow again - a powerfully symbolic explanation of the phenomenon of the seasons. Despite the romance of the tale, Pergusa is a frightful disappointment - the lake (the largest natural lake on the island, and fed by an artesian spring) is a brackish pond encircled by a motor racing track, succinctly described by Mary Taylor Simeti in her book 'On Persephone's island'