Despite being a small town, Castelbuono’ s cultural offer can boast three different museums, each exploring a different field of the human knowledge: art, natural sciences and history. They might appear at first glance as three very different areas of interest, but they share instead the same mission: preserving and promoting parts of Castelbuono’s identity, showing it’s still alive and kicking.
Museums of Castelbuono: The Civic Museum
The Civic Museum is located inside the Ventimiglia Castle, symbol of the town. Castelbuono’s community feels a great attachment to it, which should not come as a surprise, considering that in 1920 the Castle was auctioned and then literally purchased by the population through a collection. The current year – 2020 – is the 100th anniversary of this event.
Such a meaningful location has a defining role in the very essence of the Museum. These two identities – monument and museum – constantly meet and intertwine, resulting in a thick program of exhibitions and events that successfully combine a wide artistic vocation to the strong local identity.
The different sections of the museum are divided according to the Castle floors. They guide the visitors through an ascending path that starts with the study of the past and builds up, floor after floor, until it reaches the top, dedicated to spirituality and devotion.
The Museum has four permanent collections:
- First, the Urbanistic Section, which retraces the town’s evolution. The Ventimiglia family was quite farsighted, and filled the town with churches, monuments, fountains, making Castelbuono a cultural centre throughout the centuries.
- Then, the Archeological Section, which tells us about the Castle’s daily life, through some of the most important events in its history. For example its foundation in 1317, celebrated by a commemorative stone placed at the entrance.
- On the first floor, there is a pinacotheca dedicated to Modern and Contemporary art. Thanks to the contributions of local and international artists, this section aims at building a dialogue between the global artistic scene and the Mediterranean identity.
- And last, on top of it all, the section dedicated to Sacred art, deeply linked to the cult of Saint Anne, the town’s Patron. The collection includes the so-called “Saint Anne’s treasure”: golden and silver objects, religious vestments, ex-votos and precious religious items.
Not just a Museum, but a cultural centre
This offer, in truth quite exceptional, is supported by a rich program of events: temporary exhibitions, conferences, concerts etc. These events usually take place in the so-called Sala del Principe (though the correct name would be Sala del Marchese).
You might think this is plenty already, but you have yet to learn about the most precious treasure kept inside the Castle: the Palatine Chapel. The Chapel is entirely covered in stuccos, and was sculpted by the two Sicilian brothers Giuseppe and Giacomo Serpotta (whose masterpieces can be admired all over Sicily). It’s a jewel of the Sicilian Baroque and inside it, you will find Saint Anne’s skull, relics most revered by the community. We won’t get into detail here, but the Chapel will have its own dedicated article soon.
As you can easily imagine, the Civic Museum’s mission is really quite complex. It has to manage all its different “identities” (religious, historical, local, artistic) and has to find an ideal balance between them. It’s this exceptional ability that makes it one of the most appreciated (and visited) Museums in Sicily.
Official website: www.museocivico.eu
Museums of Castelbuono: The Naturalistic Museum “Francesco Minà Palumbo”
Castelbuono’s Naturalistic Museum is located inside the ex-Convent of San Francesco. It’s named after Francesco Minà Palumbo, a doctor from Castelbuono who was passionate about natural sciences and spent his entire life observing and classifying the Nature of the Madonie Park. His studies include the period between 1837 and 1899, year of his death. His heirs decided to donate the heritage that he collected to the community (not all of it is available to the public though).
That’s how the Museum was born. Today its collections display a variety of plants, animals, insects, molluscs, rocks, minerals, fossiles, prehistoric objects and industrial archeology tools from the Madonie territory. Over the years, many other collections of local naturalists have been added to Minà Palumbo’s.
Among the different sections, one is also dedicated to manna, and follows the story and production process of this rare and precious natural resin, the “lymph of the ash tree” (if you wish to know more about manna, you’ll find an article here).
A Museum that protects and promotes knowledge
The Museum also has a large library, named after Vincenza Marguglio (Minà Palumbo’s wife). It contains the naturalist’s personal books collection and his own scientific production: works on Botanics, Zoology, Medicine, Ethnoanthropology, Geology, Meteorology. He was in short a multifaceted intellectual, whose interests were many and varied, and whose curiosity for all the fields of human knowledge never ceased to inspire him. The library also includes books, articles and scientific treaties collected by Minà Palumbo over the course of his life. An impressive collection, with more than two thousand works, some even dating back to the XVI century.
As with the Civic Museum, The Naturalistic Museum too often hosts various events, held inside the big Conference Room named after Michele Morici, one of the naturalist’s heir. Conferences, meetings, courses, concerts and exhibitions, The Museum has made its mission to carry that same curiosity and lively spirit of Minà Palumbo.
Ofifcial website: www.museonaturalisticominapalumbo.it
Museums of Castelbuono: The Risorgimento Museum “Journeys”
The youngest among Castelbuono’s Museums is the Risorgimento Museum, located inside the town’s Clock Tower, in the main square (Piazza Margherita). The building dates back to the XVII century and has been first a Bank and later (till the mid XX century) the city jail. Inside the tower, on top of the building, there’s an old clock that was added in 1885.
The collections of the Museum were donated entirely by Francesco Romeo, Castelbuono’s former mayor and honorary Inspector of the Department of Cultural Heritage for the Sicilian Region. “Journeys” – the name of the museum – (“I Viaggi” in Italian) is a tribute to the many accomplished by Romeo himself, during which he collected a number of artefacts from all over the world.
The Museum has four thematic sections:
- “Journeys and folklore”, with a mix of items from different parts of the world, including objects of traditional Sicilian folklore.
- The Risorgimento Museum which collects documents, photographs, letters, old weapons, and other objects connected to Garibaldi’s “Expedition of the Thousand”, including a commemorative plaque of the fallen people from Castelbuono who took part in it.
- “Valuable objects”, with items donated by Romeo as well, which includes among the others, a XV century armour, paintings and vintage toys.
- Special mention goes to the fourth section, on top of the building: the Clock Tower, whose mechanism was installed in 1885. It’s the only remaining example from the company that built it (Isidoro Sommaruga, which closed in 1912) still functioning in Sicily, and the mechanism can be observed inside the tower. We suggest a visit accompanied by the young guides, who will explain in detail the importance of such a device for the community back in the day. Also below, you can check a video interview (in italian) at the Pro Loco President – Nicolò Cusimano – who explains and shows the mechanism of the clock.