Le città del Principe - Barrafranca

The paintings which represent the ten Cities of the Prince, originally placed above the door in the entrance room of the first floor of Palazzo Butera are now presented for the first time. The opportunity to observe them closely, allows comparing the representation with the reality of the sicilian countries, still existing. It is a project about the territories and, work together with the local effort, Palazzo Butera means to establish a link with the past, the present and the future, looking for the opportunity of exchange and the mutual enrichment.  

Barrafranca rises up on a hill in the province of Enna, in the south-center of Sicily. Adjoins Pietraperzia, Piazza Armerina and Mazzarino, and probably takes its name from a 1629’s concession which exempted whoever was to cross the country from the payment of customs duties.

The first built-up area dates back to Byzantine era, as has been clear by the discoveries during the demolition work of the ancient Mother Church and the Church of  Purgatorio. In the same years, besides the building of the main neighborhoods, stands the construction of Barrafranca’s tower, of which have no evidence in the painting, but  survives, according to sources, at least until the 18th century as ruins.

The fortified five-story tower was safe guaranteed, and around this the inhabited surface expanded, developing in a particular “upside-down structure”, by the south to the west and then north, unlike other lands which rose on the slopes of the rocks above the urban profile, as we can see on several paintings of The Cities of the Prince . Near the defensive structure, rebuilt during the Swabian domination, it was built a baronial manor, by the will of Barresi family, in the 16th century. We can find some evidence of the survival of the tower in Lexicon Topographicum  siculum, of Vito Amico, 1757, in which it’s possible to read about the ruins, near the Mother’s Church, in Batìa square. In 1779 some areas of the tower were adapted to prison from the prince Salvatore Branciforti e Branciforti, the same developer of Palazzo Butera in Palermo. By the few persistences on the west side, which are still visible today, it can be assumed that the building was octagonal.

According to the earliest historical sources, Barrafranca was named Convicino, maybe for the migratory flows from the surroundings areas, the “con-vicini”, an increasing issue which characterized the 11th  century because of depopulation of the rural areas, became unsafe, and the increase of the homes around the tower area.

The Byzantine era lasted three century, until the arrival of the Arab, of which we have no evidence in the land.

Whit the coming of the Northmen in Sicily, around the first millennium, many inland towns became residence of groups following the court. In Barrafranca settled a community comes with Ruggero I, which establishment led the diffusion of Christianity with the associated building of churches, including Saint Sebastiano church, turned into Mother Church in 1725. Will remain a strong influence of the Benedictine monks, arrived in 6th century and present in town until the 11th.

After the Swabian domination, the Angioina was strongly contested by the inhabitants of Barrafranca. The small town attended to the rebellion against French rulers and became propriety of  Federico II of Aragona. From here on out the land will be object of feudal contests.

In 1526 Carlo V promoted Barrafranca and Pietraperzia  to the rank of “Feudal Land”, set the countries free from the authority of Piazza Armerina, and allowing Matteo III Barresi, lord of the fief, to start public works which leads the country at a new configuration. Start a development stage through west by the castle, and then become villa meant to trade. At Barresi court coming theologians and Man of letters, such as the spanish Lucio Cristoforo Escobar, author of a three languages vocabulary (spanish-latin-sicilian) and a pamphlet dedicated to Matteo Barresi. Occurred in this time a new migratory flow, by the coast and from Pietraperzia, whit a population growth.

Barrafranca will depend on the near town, Pietraperzia, until 1845, when the royals Bourbon will grant new territories to annex to the original center of the municipality. A space that we can clearly see in the painting, from the main square with several churches to the manor of “His Excellency the owner” (as we can read on the canvas), a place no longer current. Instead, it is still possible to visit the parish of Santa Maria della Stella.  

Another comparison that it’s possible to do between painting and reality concerns the street view: small ways connected the country and the city, remarkable communication routs since the rural trade of the town. Fertile fields, planted whit vineyards, olives and gardens during the government of Branciforti, tied to Barresi family by a long marriage politic, and owner with them of the fiefdoms. The main roads brought to Piazza Armerina and Catrogiovanni, today’s Enna. Those ways were built during the Roman Empire and made viable by Bourbons in the 18th century.

In the following years, are being carried out works of restoration, while the politics keep the country’s attention.

During the 17th century new churches are built and those which are yet present are embellish. The city keep on growing, until also Barrafranca, as well as other sicilian countries, it’s been leased to Vincenzo Miccichè, a local owner, by the payment of an high duty, in 1626. The century ending with the earthquake of 1693 that strikes also the province of Enna.

Between 18th and 19th centuries popular unrest happen, on the heels of French Revolution and the riots of the Twenty’s, under the jurisdiction of Ercole Michele Branciforti, prince of Butera and marquis of  Barrafranca, who died in 1814. So does the years that followed: Barrafranca’s citizens adhered to “carboneria” participating actively at the events, until the landing of the “Mille” and the passage of Garibaldi’s troops from the town whit the support of the population.

Noemi Di Franco