Caltagirone city of ceramics


The city of Caltagirone it rises at the top of a mountain that separates the plain of Gela from that of Catania. The territory is rich in archaeological sites (S. Mauro, Montagna, S. Ippolito etc.) which testify to settlements since prehistoric times. On the occasion of excavation campaigns, various artefacts have been found, including terracotta, dating back to the pre-Hellenistic period. The use of clay, present in large quantities in the Calatino area, is an opportunity for artisanal and economic development already in the century. VII BC to become, around the century. V BC, more refined and recognizable.


With the Arabs, Caltagirone experienced a flourishing period both in agriculture and in other sectors and, certainly, in the production of terracotta artifacts that become majolica thanks to the glazing technique imported by the Saracens. 
The ceramic di Caltagirone, which at that time was made up of artefacts for daily use, spread rapidly throughout Sicily. Subsequently the "cannatari" (makers of jugs) ", the" ciaramitari "(tile makers), the" stovigliari "(crockery makers), had recognition of their valor so that the Caltagirone ceramics could circulate freely in the Kingdom of Sicily tax free.
Unfortunately the 1693 earthquake, nefarious for all of eastern Sicily, in addition to causing the collapse of a large part of the city, it ruined almost all the ancient ceramic artefacts that had been preserved until that moment. Fortunately, the diffusion of Caltagirone ceramics makes it possible to find objects from the period prior to the earthquake in collections scattered around the world.


The reconstruction greatly involved the administrators of the city, the Senators, who commissioned the best workers. New roads were opened downstream from the original nucleus and the city took on the Baroque aspect that we can still admire today.

At the beginning of the 19th century the flourishing activity of figurine makers began, who initially produced exclusively nativity shepherds. In 1848 the figurine maker Giacomo Bongiovanni undertook to supply the Municipality of Caltagirone annually with four groups of stickers for the consideration of seventy-two ducats per year.
Bongiovanni had the merit of dressing his clay figurines. Before him, only the heads, hands and feet were made of clay and the rest of the body was made of cloth or papier-mâché in the manner of the Neapolitan puppets. Figurines who distinguished themselves over time are to be remembered the Morrettas, the Bonanno, the Bongiovanni Vaccaro, to reach our times with the Scuto, the Branciforti, the Romano, the Patrì, the Raimondo, the Biondo etc.


In the 19th century, ceramics found widespread use in architecture, so much so that masterpieces were built such as the Villa Carolina, then Vittorio Emanuele, with furnishings by Basile made by the Vella factory in Caltagirone, or the Neo-Gothic style Cemetery, in which the designer Nicastro wanted all the architectural details in terracotta so that it is a unique example of its kind. The Public Garden is also an important example of the various artistic styles of which Caltagirone is rich, in fact you can admire the balcony of the Art Nouveau theater, the vases and statues in Baroque style and the gazebo of exquisite Arab taste. The last major public work that has seen the use of ceramics is the coating of the front of the steps of the famous staircase of Maria SS. del Monte created in the 1950s by the Caltagirone School of Art directed by Prof. Antonino Ragona who was also responsible for the establishment of the Museum of Ceramics. This staircase, on the occasion of the July celebrations in honor of the Patron S.Giacomo, is illuminated by thousands of oil lamps that draw splendid tapestries. This ancient tradition was codified in the mid-19th century by the Franciscan Father Benedetto Papale.


Today Caltagirone offers visitors a historic center in which medieval, baroque and liberty buildings coexist, which has its heart in the old piazza della Loggia (Town Hall) bordered by the majestic Palazzo dell'Aquila, the Capitaniale Court, the Palazzo Gravina with the long Gaginesque balcony. and from the Luigi Sturzo Gallery, inside which is the largest ceramic panel ever made, in which the Master Roman pine it represented the battle of Judica which saw the Calatini winners over the Saracens. This event gave rise to the power of Caltagirone which was enfeoffed by the Barony of Camopietro.