NAME: Biblioteca del Real Collegio Capizzi (Bourbon-Era Library)

MAP LOCATION:

Street Address: Real Collegio Capizzi, Corso Umberto 277 – 95034 Bronte (CT)

The library is located on the ground-floor.

CONTACTS:   Tel.: +39 095 691008     Fax.: +39 095 7723585 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC:   2€ per person Monday- Sunday 9:00am -1:00pm

Visits outside these hours may be arranged by phone ahead of time.

HISTORY:

History tells us that in 1767, upon the request of Ferdinand III, Bernardo Tanucci drafted the Provision of Expulsion from Sicily of the members of the Compagnia di Gesù (the Jesuits). Tanucci was a politician and advocate of jurisdictionalism: a judiciary system that granted authority to the State to intervene in ecclesiastical matters.  On a November night in 1767, just two hours after midnight, every Jesuit boarding school and Retreat House was surrounded, and in just one day the Bourbon troops succeeded in capturing the Jesuits in order to send them to their designated locations.  All of the worldly goods belonging to the Order (land, houses, schools, books, and furnishings) were confiscated and sold.  The revenue of the sale of their property was designated for the construction of new public schools where the State intended to substitute the clerical teaching staff with instructors chosen from among the laity.  The Jesuits were subsequently exiled from Sicily by means of the Suppression ordered by Ferdinand III.  At this point, many wished to acquire the property that had belonged to the Jesuits, including the Venerable Ignazio Capizzi, native son of Bronte and founder of the school that bears his name.  At the time, Capizzi was practicing his ministry in Palermo, and recognizing the great importance of cultural dissemination and conservation, Capizzi asked that he be given the books that had been confiscated from Jesuit libraries in Palermo. Today these books constitute a part of the rich cultural patrimony of the Library of the Real Collegio Capizzi. To be precise, on August 6, 1778 through an Act of Donation drawn up by the notary, Tamaio, the Collegio Capizzi received from its benefactor, the donation of 715 books previously owned by the Jesuits.

During World War II the Collegio had been used as a provisional hospital. The books were removed from the library and were stored in the basement below. The removal of the books turned out to be fortuitous as that were spared from the aerial bombing raids of the summer of 1943.  Instead, and unfortunately so, the books suffered some damage from the mice, and the humidity that caused some mold.

When the number of students began to decline in 1983, the Administrative Council decided to open the library to the public, whereas previously it was only accessible to the students and a privileged few.  The library has since become a focal point that offers on-site consultation to those conducting academic or historical research, or simply for those with a passion for history and knowledge.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

The library, defined as Bourbonic, comprises an important collection of 18th century humanistic culture.

The importance attributed to the library derives from the fact that it constitutes a precious historical archive of over 21,000 scientific, literary, theological and philosophical volumes, in languages spanning Greek, Latin, Italian, English, Spanish, German, and French.  Through the titles in this collection it is possible to understand the types of disciplines the students had at their disposal to study within the College.  The quality and the breadth of the collection helped to rank Collegio Capizzi among the top schools in terms of cultural patrimony and scholastic formation.

Located on the first floor of the college, the library is composed of two rooms with wooden shelves, built on the design of Don Carmelo Luca in 1830. It should be noted that one section is dedicated to authors from Bronte; likewise the busts of two famous Brontesi, Enrico Cimbali and Benedetto Radice are located in one of the rooms.

Additional volumes are currently located in the corridor.  These will be relocated to the private chapel within the College once the restoration has been completed.

Not only the library but the entire college complex is a cultural center.  Throughout the year a series of cultural events such as conferences, seminars, exhibits, concerts, student gatherings, public lectures, and book presentations are held in the auditorium.  These frequent activities and collaborations with local schools and institutes are testament to the active role of the Collegio in the promotion of knowledge and culture.

Those who visit the Collegio have the opportunity to learn about local history, particularly the events that lead to the Bronte Massacre in 1860, and its protagonists, as well as everything else that makes Bronte unique, for example: the Bronte pistachio.

BOOKS INSIDE THE LIBRARY:

The library’s collection has grown over the years due to acquisitions, bequeathals, and donations from private citizens.

The library contains over 21,000 volumes of scientific, literary, theological and philosophical nature, in languages from ancient Greek and Latin, to Italian, English, Spanish, German, and French.

There are a significant number of ancient Greek and Latin texts (The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, the works of authors such as Xenophon, Tacitus, Ovid, Sallust, etc.) Also worthy of mention is an 1837 Florentine edition of the Iliad, in 2 volumes; it includes not only the original Greek text, but also seven translations of the Homeric epic: two in Latin (one in verse by R. Cunich, and the other in prose by C. G. Heyne) the others in Italian, German, French, English, and Spanish.

Among the works that should be mentioned due their inestimable worth are:

  • a 1561 edition of one of Aristotle’s works;
  • a 5 volume collection of the works of Aristotle published by Didot;
  • a 1571 Venetian edition (Manutius) of Ambrosio Calepino’s Latin dictionary;
  • a 1692 geographic atlas, La guida del Mercurio ouero Guida Geografica in tutte le parti del mondo, printed by Domenico de Rossi in Rome and with hand-colored engravings by Antonio Barbey color;
  • an 1877 treatise on astronomy;
  • a 1536 Venetian edition of Dante’s Divina commedia;
  • the works of Goethe;
  • a volume written in an ancient Oriental language;
  • a first edition copy of Luigi Capuana’s “Teatro Italiano” (a collection of critical essays on Italian Theater) with the author’s hand-written dedication: “alla biblioteca del Collegio di Bronte come piccola espiazione di tutte le mie scapataggini di collegiale. Mineo, 7 Aprile 1872” (To the library of the College of Bronte as a small penance for all of my schoolboy truancy. Mineo, April 7, 1872). Capuana had attended Collegio Capizzi from 1853-54.

Entire collections of newspapers and other periodicals from the archive of Cardinal Antonino De Luca are also conserved at the library. These cover the periods from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, and are in excellent states of preservation.

Also conserved at the library is a precious collection of documents from the Deanery of Bronte, and the unique “Spiritual Court” that operated in the city over the course of the 18th century.  There are also minor collections of well-known local figures, as well as the manuscripts of the philosopher Nicola Spedalieri.

The so-called “Fondo De Luca” is another bequeathal of particular interest.  It contains books and documents that belonged to Cardinal Antonino-Saverio, who served as papal legate in Vienna under the papacy of Pius IX.   The “Fondo Cimbali”, is a wealth of hand-written documents that had belonged to Giuseppe Cimbali, a writer and philosopher, and alum of Collegio Capizzi.

The historical archive consisting of the administrative ledgers and scholastics records, and which also contained a collection of diplomas and various academic documents, is no longer complete: in part it was destroyed, and in part given to private collections.

The works listed above are only a small portion of the great many works conserved in the Library of the Collegio Capizzi and that make it a magical place for those passionate about books and history.

HOW TO GET THERE

by car: Corso Umberto is easily accessible by car, and parking is available along the Corso.

by foot: The main entrance to the Collegio is located on Corso Umberto, n.277.