Chiaramontan Style Architecture


During the 14th century, the Chiaramonte family was the most powerful family in Sicily. Early in their ascent to power, they ruled Modica and Ragusa, and over subsequent generations, they had a mix of properties throughout Sicily under their authority. This palace pictured, known as Palazzo Chiaramonte or Palazzo Steri, is probably their most famous property. The architectural style is, in fact, known as Chiaramontan Style. Built starting in 1307, the window design purposefully recalls Arab-Norman style with its inlaid black lava stone (known as intarsias), yet what distinguishes it is the double arched, mullioned windows.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Lovely palazzo, and I noticed the double-arched windows right away. Does anyone live there now? I was wondering about all the historic structures in Sicily and whether or not anyone lives in them – or is even allowed to. Well, some aren’t really suitable (with no walls!) for living. But some you’ve pictured here seem like they would be.
    BTW, found the perfect donkey for the little cart in New York – a little lost donkey (in Norman, Oklahoma) that fit perfectly in the back seat of a police car, with his head out the window! Have a lovely day, Allison! <3

    1. I love the donkey story!

      No one lives in the Palazzo Steri now. The Chiaramonte family went out of favor for political reasons in the late 1300s (Too complicated to get into now, but you can imagine the palace intrigue involved during this time period!). Afterwards, it became a prison for a few hundred years… the Spanish used it during the inquisition. Needless to say, part of the complex is not a happy place. Now, it is a tourist site–with very interesting drawings/wall graffiti from the period of the Inquisition (another post!), and it’s owned by University of Palermo which has conferences and other meetings there. It’s open to the public to tour, and they have excellent English speaking guides to take you through it.

  2. Another reason (if I really needed more!) to visit Sicily. I can imagine the unhappy places – prisoners during the Spanish Inquisition – definitely not good! Yes, I’d love to see the graffiti on the walls from when it was a prison.

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