WIT Press

Baroque Balconies And Masks In Eastern Sicily (Italy)


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51 - 61




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WIT Press


C. Gullo, L. Battaglia


The 1693 earthquake was a disastrous event that struck south-eastern Sicily, in southern Italy. The disaster damaged several towns such as Catania, Acireale, Noto, Ragusa, Siracusa, Scicli, Modica and Palazzolo, and destroyed the majority of their monuments. The degree and extent of the damage caused by the earthquake prompted an architectural revival in the towns of Sicily, a style that has become known as “Sicilian Baroque”. Many of the public buildings, palazzi, cathedrals and churches were reconstructed in this style and at this time, these cities represented a considerable collective undertaking, successfully carried out at a high level of architectural and artistic achievement. One of the most representative examples of the Sicilian Baroque style are the balconies, supported by console brackets adorned with apotropaic masks; monumental portals with richly decorated voussoirs and keystones. This paper aims to investigate some of these elements: Palazzo Beneventano in Sicily, decorated with very expressive and grotesque apotropaic masks; the balconies of Palazzo Zacco in Ragusa with sculptures representing a mermaid and musicians playing maracas, flutes and trumpets; the balconies of Palazzo Nicolaci in Noto, in which every single console brackets is decorated in different ways: mermaids, winged horses, lions, cherubs; the balcony of Palazzo Judica Caruso in Palazzolo Acreide, the longest balcony in the world with its 27 console brackets. These architectural elements are very important in reporting the Baroque period of Sicilian’s history and represent the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe. The understanding and awareness of historical values is important for treasuring and preserving this unique historic, and non-reproducible, heritage.


Baroque architecture, balconies, portals, Sicily, 1963 earthquake