Assoro is a town with a long history. It is located around 900 meters above sea level on Mount “La Stella” in the province of Enna, Sicily. Houses were erected on the hills in the “Seggio” and “San Giuliano” localities, as well as further up in the “Rito” area, where the castle was built, at the start of history. The village’s entry is “Piano di Corte,” which, though it is now the newest, was previously Assoro’s first human settlement. Assoro has a population of around 5,300 people, with less than a thousand living in the hamlet of San Giorgio, about 7 kilometers from Assoro and on the borders of the tiny town of Nissoria, about 2 kilometers distant.
What to see in Assoro
Castello di Valguarnera 🏰
During the Norman period, the castle was erected in the first half of 1200. The architect was the same as the one who created Catania’s Ursino castle. It was born in Assoro’s highest region, known as the “Rito” area. The drawbridge was in the southwest corner, and the entrance was behind it. The top levels were home to the Lords of Assoro. It was also the home of the Barons of Valguarnera, who moved out when the Palazzo della Signoria adjacent the Chiesa Madre S. Leone was constructed.
The castle has been abandoned since then and has fallen into ruin. The famous archaeologist Paolo Orsi found a “glittography,” a very uncommon kind of writing consisting of oblique lines, on the inner side of the southwest. The finding shows that the Norman Castle was constructed on top of an ancient stronghold.
Basilica di San Leone ⛪
For its aesthetic splendor, the Church of San Leone, which has become the town’s major town and been promoted to the level of Basilica, has been named a National Monument. It is one of Sicily’s most magnificent structures, according to one tourist, “a journey from overseas is also worthy to visit it.” Constance of Altavilla built it as a “royal” chapel in the twelfth century. It is predominantly Gothic in style, with Arabic and Catalan influences. It is shaped like a Latin cross and comprises of three naves with an elevated transept relative to the church’s floor; there is a central and two lateral apses on an even higher elevation. It features a trussed wooden roof.
The Basilica has precious works of art, among which are to be mentioned:
- Acheropito crucifix in wood and impasto (1.70 meters high) attributed to Antonello Gagini
- Large polyptych icon, holy water font, and baptismal font also sculpted by the same artist
- Silver cross with blue enamel background by Vincenzo Archifel
- Gallican missal used in Sicily before the Council of Trent
- Four artistic sarcophagi of the Valguarnera counts
- Bronze door artistically depicted
- Early Christian crypt, formerly a pagan temple.
Chiesa dello Spirito Santo ⛪
Dedicated in the thirteenth century to the Holy Spirit, Assoro’s patron saint until 1630. The hospital was built next to the cathedral about 1700, and the Corradine nuns’ convent was consolidated. The nuns founded the first school for females to study literature, music, and needlework. With the arrival of the Capuchin Tertiary nuns in 1937, according to scholar Giovanni Gnolfo, the convent found a more serene atmosphere after a period of gray. The hospital was no longer open. The church has three naves and a magnificent Gallic-Gothic entrance and porch on the outside. Inside the church, there are two paintings: the first depicts Pentecost and Christ on the Cross supported by the Eternal Father, the second shows the devotion to the Guardian Angel.
Chiesa di Maria SS. degli Angeli ⛪
The Reformed Franciscan Fathers constructed this splendid church and associated monastery in 1622, incorporating the pre-existing Church of S. Margherita. The Friars owned it until 1896, and the monastery had a large library. It was then utilized as a district jail until the Second World War. In the following decades, it housed an orphanage and was utilized as a boarding school by the Parish of San Leone. The church is reached through a massive stairway with a stone cross in the center. Beautiful Baroque paintings can be found inside.
Frazione di San Giorgio
San Giorgio is a tiny village located on the outskirts of Assoro. San Giorgio is approximately 7 kilometers from Assoro and approximately 2 kilometers from Nissoria. The Church of San Giorgio Martire, the Parish Church, and the Church of San Giorgio is the three churches in this charming hamlet.
Palazzo della Signoria 🏯
This Palace was constructed in 1492 at the request of the Lords of Assoro, the noble Valguarnera family, who had previously resided within the castle. The structure is designed in an attractive Catalan style, with a façade that overlooks Piazza Marconi, near the Basilica of S. Leone. Ashlar gateways and well-carved stone balconies may be found on the northern and eastern facades. In 1538, the nobles’ home was made even more opulent by the addition of a second structure, connected to the first but designed in the Baroque style. The entrance to the baronial stables was on the bottom levels, overlooking Piazza Umberto I.
Municipio – ex Badia di Santa Chiara
Virginia Valguarnera built the Abbey of Santa Chiara in the 15th century. The old monastery now houses the municipal seat, municipal theater, council chamber, and traffic police headquarters. The council room now hosts a variety of cultural activities.