History of Realmonte


See Realmonte guide for highlights and historic monuments

The area of Realmonte, and in general the area surrounding Agrigento, was a fertile land and a large producer of wheat even in Roman and Medieval times. Thanks to the port of Agrigento, the hinterland became a pivotal point not only for production but also for the wheat trade. Al Idrisi (the 12th century Arab chronicler) tells us that:

"[...] the territory of Agrigento was noted for the abundance and variety of its productions and its hinterland was strewn with farm-houses [...]" [1].

The important study by Professor Rizzo also briefly outlined the contours of the Realmonte area in the Middle Ages, very close to the sea and for this reason marshy, but which shows signs of settlement in the "Contrada Fauma":

"[...] a large district located between the towns of Realmonte and Siculiana, about 4 km from the sea. This site, identified in the territory of Realmonte, occupies the southern slopes of Monte Mele  (...) Here were found large fragments of blows (...)  and five graves dug into the chalky rock (...) Most of the finds date from the Roman Empire, while the tiles date back to medieval times (...) Here also was located the farm-house called "Fauma" [...]" [2].

Although the area was difficult for settlement:

"the evidence attests to the presence of many farm-houses (...) We mention the site of Capo Rossello and the Roman Villa of “Durrueli”; we have also identified two small Greeks  settlements along the coast between Siculiana and Montallegro" [3]..

The founding of Realmonte

Realmonte itself did not exist in the Middle Ages, but many settlements in the area were called "Civita" (“town”) and the name 'Civita' (was) applied "by the inhabitants to a flat area of land near Realmonte" [5], so in the Middle Ages Realmonte could coincide with one of the many "civita" on the territory.

Realmonte, together with some other areas of Sicily, was founded as part of a rule called the "Ius or licentia populandi" by which the Sicilian nobility of the time had the royal privilege to found new villages with an agricultural vocation because of the need to increase food supplies in the 17th century.

In 1650 Realmonte belonged to Giovanni Platamone, Duke of Castrofilippo and Mendola, who then sold it to Giovanni Monreale, from whom the city took its original name - “Monte Reale” ["Mount Royal"] - later changed to "Realmonte" ["Royal Mount"].

In 1680, Giovanni Monreale populated his feud of Mendola by drawing in a number of farmers and settlers from the nearby municipalities, and in the late 17th century the church of St. Anthony and castle were founded.

The village houses were then built around the church, that is, in the plain of “Carracini” and then the village expanded onto the plain to the north.

In the late 19th century a new mother church was built, dedicated to Saint Dominic, the patron saint of the town, while the old castle was used over the centuries as a prison and barracks.

Origins of the name Realmonte

With regard to the etymology of "Realmonte", since the name derives from Baron Giovanni Monreale, the founder of the town, the meaning is clear: “Realmonte” is simply "Monreale" reversed. Douglas Sladen writes:

"[...] Realmonte a town two hours by mail-vettura from Porto Empedocle on the Girgenti Line. "Realmonte" is "Monreale" reversed, just as "Montechiaro" in the same district is Chiaramonte reversed” […]" [4].

See also the Realmonte travel guide.

References

1. See M.S. Rizzo, "The Medieval Settlement in the Valley of Platani ", 2004:  28 ff.

2. ref 1, see pp. 60-61

3. ref 1, see p. 140 and note 97

4. see Douglas Sladen, “Sicily”, p. 266

5. See "Archaeological Sicily", 1998, n. 31:  82