on the Marone Mount, Gangi, that archaeologists had identified with
the ancient Engyum, a Greek city founded by colonists from Minoa,
started to develop in the 14th century and retains much of its medieval
delle Rimembranze, lined by trees planted to commemorate every soldier
killed in the Second World War, leads to the entrance to the higher
town. The visit can begin with Piazza S. Paolo overlooked by the
St. Paul’s church’s stone façade featuring a
fine portal ornamented with shallow-reliefs. The Chiesa della Badia
(18th century), nearby, has a similar bare stone-style as this.
Corso Umberto I, flanked with fine buildings among which notable
is Palazzo Mocciaro, leads to the very town heart.
Bongiorno – The Bongiornos, one of the wealthiest
families in the area, had this imposing building built in 18th century.
What is particularly interesting are the elegant trompe l’oeil
frescoes in the rooms on the piano nobile. The most endearing features
of the building are the frescoes by Gaspare Fumagalli, a Roman painter
who was very active in Palermo around the mid-1700s; they comprise
a series of allegorical subjects both sacred and profane (Modesty,
The Triumph of Christianity, Time), set within an elaborate framework
of architectural elements, ornamented with masks, volutes and medallions
containing pastoral landscapes.
del Popolo – The town’s main square is dominated
by the Torre Ventimiglia. In one corner nestles a small grotto harbouring
the gracious Fontana dei Leone, dated 1931.
Ventimiglia – Erected in the 13th century as a watch-tower,
this imposing building passed to the Knights of Malta and was transformed
into a bell-tower in the 17th century, when the Chiesa Madre was
built. It is Norman-Gothic in style and has a pointed arcade portico
along the street side, attractive three-light and double-arch windows
Madrice – It was built in the 17th century on the
site of a former oratory and contains at its inside several engaging
works. Particularly striking is a huge canvas occupying the left
side of the chancel depicting the Last Judgement, considered to
be the last masterpiece of one the two Lame Men of Gangi, that is
Giuseppe Salerno, in 1629. The compex iconography underpinning this
great theological statement is modelled on similar treatments of
the subject by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, among others;
common elements include the standing figure of Christ, the skin
of St. Bartholomew whose head, some claim, is a self-portrait of
the artist, and the figure of Charon, the devil’s ferryman.
The composition is arranged around the central upright figure of
Christ; at his feet kneel the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist flanked
by the apostles in the foreground, and the rank and file of saints
– male and female – on the right. The tier below comprises
13 children representing the innocent martyrs; at their feet is
the Book of Life. The lower level of the composition is divided
into two: to the left, the Archangel Michael drives away the dragon
while presiding over the Elect who rises from the dead; to the right,
are shown the Damned with the jaws of Leviathan down in the corner.
In the centre, is Charon’s boat. Each of the damned embodies
one of the capital sins, its name emblazoned upon a label, sometimes
written in Sicilian. The Damned include various religious figures,
but there is no priest, as it was a priest who commissioned the
church contains other prized pieces such as wooden sculptures by
Quattrocchi, among which is a San Gaetano (at the far end of the
south aisle). From the church forecourt, there is a fine view over
the lower part of Gangi, including the Torre Saracena on the left,
and the Convento dei Cappuccini.
Fedele Vitale, a natural continuation of Corso Umberto, is lined
with the Botteghe Romane (Roman Shops), dating from the 16th century,
so-called because of their particular look consisting of a doorway
flanked by a window and counter through which goods are sold. Further
on is Palazzo Sgadari housing the Town Museum with a rich display
of relics from the archaeological site of Monte Alburchia. At the
end of the street is the square Castello dei Ventimiglia.
TO GANGI BASSA
to Piazza del Popolo and turn down via Madrice (stepped) to the
Chiesa del SS. Salvatore, containing a wooden Crucifix by Frà
Umile da Petralia and the Road to Calvary by Giuseppe Salerno, a
work betraying the influence of Raphael’s Spasimo di Sicilia
commissioned for the Chiesa dello Spasimo in Palermo.
little further downhill is the Chiesa di Santa Maria di Gesù,
the former Benedictine Hospice (15th century). The bell-tower dating
from the same period is graced with two- and three-light windows.
The church front features a fine doorway with shallow-relief decoration.
Inside are eye-catching works by Quattrocchi, notably a wooden sculptured
dello Spirito Santo – According to a popular local
story, in the 16th century, a deaf mute labourer was working in
the fields when he came across an image of Christ painted on a rock,
and miraculously began to speak. On the very spot the miracle occurred,
a sanctuary, today a favorite goal of pilgrims, was built. The rock
image is now masked by a painting by Vazzano placed behind the altar.
out at the monastery – About 4 km from Gangi, at
Gangi Vecchio, sits the former Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria
Annunziata, dating from the 14th century and converted into a summer
residence by the Barons of Bongiorno in the 18th century. It now
operates as an informal agriturismo. For more information and bookings
call 0921/ 6891 91.
Tours – The Gangi Pro Loco organizes guided tours
of the town. Those interested should book at least a week in advance.