THE TOWN OF POGGIOREALE
Poggioreale, Podium Regale, Pogginriali, and registered by the post office as “Poggioreale, Sicily.
The homes are arranged on the southern slope, at two thirds of the height of Mount Elimo, in an area where the terrain is relatively flat and gently sloped on the right and left sides. The northern part inclines upward, and the southern end descends. At its center, in Piazza Elimo, the altitude is 400 meters above sea level, while the highest houses, on Via Castellazzo are at 462 meters. The home that is farthest to the south, at the end of Via Passo d’Antoni is at an altitude of 382 meters; the right side of the house is actually at 403 meters, and the left is at an altitude of 420 meters. The Chiesa Addolorata on the north west and the Convent on the south west end are at 367 meters.
The town is geographically located at 12 degrees 56 minutes east longitude and 37 degrees 58 minutes north latitude: meridian Greenwich. If Poggioreale were the centerpoint, straight lines could be drawn to the following locations, with the distances in kilometers (km) from Poggioreale indicated: north to the sea, Trappeto, 30 km; south to the sea, Capo San Marco, 31 km; west to the sea, Lilibeo, 52 km; east to the sea, Mascali, 192 km; through the Etna crater, 163 km; south to Santa Margherita Belice, 10 km; northeast to Capo Zafferano, 57 km; northwest to Erice, 47 km, southeast to Gela, 135 km; southwest through Montevago, 9 km, to Capo Granitola, 37 km; south-southwest to the Island of Pantelleria, 135 km. This island is clearly profiled on the horizon on days that precede strong south winds. To the east-northeast of Poggioreale 82 kilometers is the Peak, or Antenna Point, of the Madonie mountains, at 1,975 meters high. The town’s buildings occupy 12 hectares of land, the solid terrain has a southern exposure, its streets divide the town in such a way as to correspond o the 4 principal directions of the compass; north, south, east, west. Unfortunately, lax compliance with building restrictions have resulted in overhangs and balconies that have restricted the width of the streets: the space has been used to increase the size of private dwellings.
The distances from Poggioreale to the Island’s various Administrative District seats are as follows: 45 km to Palermo, 225 km to Messina, 186 km to Catania, 217 km to Siracusa, 180 km to Ragusa, 97 km to Caltanissetta, 112 km to Enna, 75 km to Agrigento, 50 km to Trapani. And since Poggioreale is in the Elimic area, it is only 7 kilometers distant from Rocca di Entella, the town that has shared with Elima centuries of life, of wars, of destructions.
At the beginning, this town was constructed with 200 brick houses. The town is divided into 4 sections, crossed from west to east by Via Umberto which is intersected by Via Castellazzo from the north, and to the south. Via Passo d’Antoni. Via Umberto 1 was once called Aragona, and its 285 meters end in Piazza Elimo. Via Castellazzo measures 210 meters and Via Passo d’Antoni 157 meters. From Piazza Elimo, the road that winds toward the east is called Via Santa Margherita Belice and runs 180 meters to Capo d’acqua. Piazza Elimo is an ample rectangle that inclines slightly to the south, and measures 61.5 by 32.5 meters, lined with attractive houses and having 4 outlets to streets on the east and west sides.
The south side opens onto Via Regina Margherita, 140 meters long, while the north side opens onto a stairway leading to Matrice, with 66 steps intersected by 7 large landings and by Via Aragona. The Piazza in 1906 was planted with black locust trees, that no longer exist today, from the Piazza there is a descent into the smaller Piazza Cannoli. In ancient times, Holy Cross of Calvary stood in the center of Piazza Elimo until 1869 when the piazza, for maintenance, was leveled and the Calvary was moved onto the San Francesco trail, located to the east of Poggioreale, facing the Piazza. In 1885 that Calvary, a cross made of iron, which had been commissioned by the Congregation of the Holiest Sacrament and with private offerings; was moved closer to the town according to council resolution number 13 of May 18,1885, and located in Capo d’acqua, which it still towers over.
The climate is mild, and in the winter there is little hail, snow or freezing temperatures. Mount Elimo protects the town from the bora, the Mountain of Cozzo di Felice attenuates the furious Levant wind. however, the town is exposed to the north wind and to the strong winds from the south, such as the libeccio (south-west wind) and the scirocco that at times churn the atmosphere, and the gibleh, or desert winds, from the cost of Cyrenaica that manage to bring sand from the Sahara, turning the sky a yellowish-red color or even darker, creating a haze that covers the horizon.
The town has an attractive and commodious Town Hall on the main street. It was recently restored and remodeled to conform with the needs of a modern office, and is up to the standards of a city building. The city government has always been concerned with maintaining good facilities; one reads, in fact, in the council resolution of March 18, 1863, that calls for the establishment of permanent Town Hall, given that up until that time, city administration was carried out in private homes, and therefore it was difficult to create sufficient archives for the town. To provide for this need, the communal property above the houses of the town was transferred and with the resolution of July 13, 1866, the sale of the lot 4.97.44 was carried out increase the sum received from the sale of the Salaparuta trail, which had already been replaced by a new street, as a result of the resolution of April 18, 1867. This sum of cash receipts also included the proceeds from the sale of the communal lands in the Capuchin area, as well as the proceeds from the sale of a building, which was built some time before by the inhabitants of the community who had decided to raise a church in honor of Saint Anthony of Padova, Patron of Poggioreale. a building that with time was abandoned and therefore was never completed, since there was another church dedicated to the same Saint.
Resolutions number 40B of June 15 and July 13, 1864, give the details of the above transactions and prepared for the Council Resolution number 11 of August 9, 1867, which established the specifications for the construction from the ground up, of the a town hall composed of 15 rooms, 10 on the first floor, from one side looking out on the street facing south and the other side looking out onto Via Umberto 1, with the remaining five rooms on the second floor above the level lands of the street to the south.
The task assumed by the builders was to complete the building by June 1, 1869. The importance of the Communal expense, was emphasized by its official approval by the Provincial Administration Council. The building was completed on May 21, 1870 according to the document number 22 of July 14, 1870.
Therein, the administration was carried out until 1905. on June 12, 1905, the Community carried out an exchange of buildings with the local Congregation of Charity, in which the Community ceded to the Congregation the entire building of the former Capuchin Convent (which had repeatedly been requested of the King’s Governor and was finally received by the Procurator of the Registry of Gibellina with an agreement of November 27, 1888), in exchange for which the Community obtained from the Congregation of Charity the former palazzo of Mirto D. Benedetto, which had already become the property of these Pious Works.
From that day, the Community’s administration resided in the palazzo that today has been brought up to modern standards. The modernization began with the resolution of January 1, 1950, which were carried out in full in the year 1955. The town hall is even now royally furnished, especially in the council chamber and the Mayor’s office.
The School Building is found on Via Umberto, at the corner of Via Garibaldi, recently built on the site of a previous building, which was razed to the ground for this purpose. This building and the town hall, aside from providing office space for the Municipal and Elementary School administrations, have graced the main street, and are attractive in themselves.
Next to the School building, on the west side, is the community Theater which is being renovated and awaits completion of work, facing Via Umberto 1 with a view and enhance that are appropriate to the grandness of the theater, complete with three rows of benches.
It was built in 1867, as one can read in the resolution of March 27 of that same year, that the Administration saw the need to provide a recreational facility for the people; the Community held than an unused piece of land be dedicated to a theater. After a series of resolutions, the specifications were finally promulgated on March 2, 1869, to begin work on March 30, 1867.
Work began immediately, and was completed in March, 1873, according to the record of April 21 of the same year, and on October 30, 1875, a Committee was named to oversee the care and upkeep of the site.
Hopefully, the recent works in progress will give the town recreational as well as educational facilities.
The former Convent of the Capuchin Fathers is located in the southwest part of town. building began in 1723 as a result of a public act of July 6, 1723, made official at the office of Notary Giuseppe Montalbano, of Gibellina. Prince Don G. F. Morso and his wife, Donna Teresa Bonanno attended the blessing of the building’s first stone. The work was completed by Signor Luigi Morso and all at his expense, due to the unexpected and premature death of Signor Francesco Morso.
The Convent of the Capuchins and the new building, were devoted to the kind work of those Fathers on behalf of the population of Poggioreale, and it became the center of a religious movement; its closure following the passage of subversive laws was almost a tragedy for the town, a great loss, but its memory was so alive and long-lasting as to keep alive and preserve a true religious fervor and devotion in the faithful, so that the Church was fervently and well attended for the celebration of the divine mysteries.
Enthusiasm was especially intense during the fifteen days devoted to the Madonna Ascended to Heaven.
When the convent was in full activity, in the days from the 15 to the 17 December, 1777, it hosted the illustrious Father General of the Franciscans, Erasmo de Radekburgo (Germany), who was received with great solemnity.
The town of Poggioreale, site of the formal feudal property of Bagnitelli, (a name that refers to the abundance of springs in the area), nevertheless suffered the punishments of Tantalus for its lack of water.
In the summer the crowd at the public wells was terrifying. Finally the waters of Montescuro, that were envied for thirty years, not only by Poggioreale, but by all of the 24 communities in the cooperative, formed by council resolution of October 29, 1950, which established the needed organization in the convention stipulated with the E.A.S., so that ever since those waters have flowed to Poggioreale. The water storage tank is situated at the north west of the town, the network of distribution pipes is now completed.
The christening of the water tank took place on May 18, 1953 with a sober and solemn festival, attended by a jubilant populace, grateful for the intervention of His Excellency, the Minister of Public Works, The Mayor gave a heartfelt speech appropriate to the occasion. The town now enjoyed the possession of the principle element for cleanness and sanitation that emancipated it from the shortages it had suffered.
The sewer problem was also resolved, this was another problem that was so well resolved that we can breathe even healthier air. The ancient system of cesspools was replaced. It was fortunate that in the past there was plenty of air and sunlight; the town is entirely exposed to the southern sun, and well ventilated by streets that are open to the four winds and that inclined with a descent with a slope of approximately 80 meters between the northern and southern extremes; with the rains the town was cleaned and disinfected by the water that flowed downward through tire streets.
The natural position of the town helps with sanitation, although in 1866 a great deal of mourning was caused by the Asian cholera epidemic, the deadly disease that targeted this community in October of that year, but subsequently, there were no further outbreaks, except for diphtheria that took the lives of many children in 1889, afflicted with the deadly Loffler bacillus in the mucous of the air passages of the poor infants.
The Spanish flu, which visited most of the world in 1818, raising alarm even in Sicilian communities, hardly appeared in Poggioreale. Nevertheless, another health problem was persistent: malaria, which in the area of Belice created susceptibility to other diseases. However malaria disappeared years ago. Today’s sanitation officials no longer must wage the battle against endemic disease, which cost the town a great deal in quinine distributed without charge to the citizenry. The steady decrease in mortality rates is proof of the improved sanitary conditions of this populace.
Following are the data for the last fifty years:
- 1900: 95 births and 93 deaths
- 1915: 99 births and 69 deaths
- 1930: 77 births and 48 deaths
- 1940: 112 births and 50 deaths
- 1950: 67 births and 22 deaths
- 1955: 78 births and 28 deaths.
These are very comforting statistics.
The Community of Poggioreale, with the council resolution of April 13, 1951, decided to erect public housing in accordance with the housing act dated May 7, 1952. His Excellency the Prefect signed the decree of expropriation of the necessary land, according to official document number 11877, on May 19, 1951. The location was found on the Poggioreale-Salaparuta thoroughfare, an extension of Via Umberto, which was lengthened by another hundred meters. The first building housed 4 families of employees; the other three buildings are now in construction and will each house 4 families.
The Community clock towers on the front of Matrice church, when the acquisition was made of the new clock, according to council resolution of July 19, 1896, it was temporarily installed, and eventually was located on the east tower of the Church facade when the church was finally built.
A new, spacious street, just begun in 1955, begins at the Chiesa Addolorata and leads to Via San Antoniello, making the northern end of town more accessible, with an entrance to the road to Palermo.
[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: https://www.amazon.com/History-Poggioreale-Sicily-1640-1956/dp/1072403374/ ]