Corleone is a small town situated on a hill about 500 meters above sea level in the province of Palermo in western Sicily. The town is best known for its churches and for its connection with some of the most powerful families of the mafia.
This mafia asociation explains why the name Corleone was used by the lead character in the 'Godfather' film.
There is a famous motto that describes Corleone as "the city of one hundred churches" - the description is correct, both in religious and artistic terms, and the artistic heritage of the town is concentrated in its churches and the artworks they contain. Below we describe the highlights of a few of the most important of these churches before looking at other places to visit.
Corleone Mother Church
The most important of the religious buildings in Corleone is the Mother Church, dedicated to Saint Martin and built in the late 14th century. This Church has been restructured several times, and it holds some important works of art such as the marble baptistry of the Gagini school (16th century), the wooden choir by Giuseppe Li Volsi (16th century), and a frontal altar cloth embroidered in gold on red cloth.
The altars in the Mother Church have some important paintings by Fra’ Felice da Sambuca [Gioacchino Viscosi] (1734-1805), one depicting "The Miracle of St. Bernardo resurrecting a man run down by horses" (1768) and the other “The miracle of Bernardo resurrecting a drowned man” (1768). Also worthy of mention is the "Saint Francis" by Pietro Novelli (1603-1647), and "San Domenico", by Girolamo Paladino (1593-1624).
Among the sculptures are a wooden statue of St. Sebastian and St. Philip of Agira, in gilded wood, and a carved work of the "Madonna dell'Itria", attributed to Ferraro and Buttafuoco and probably dating from the end the 16th century. The sacristy is especially rich in important works with works dating from the 16th and 17th centuries such as the "Holy Family" by Girolamo Paladino.
Church of Santa Rosalia
Also dating from the 16th century in Corleone is the Church of Santa Rosalia, which contains a valuable painting by Velasquez (1599-1660), a prominent figure of Sicilian painting in the 17th century who studied at the Neo-classical Roman School. We also mention in particular "St. John and the Adoration of the Shepherds" and the "Nativity" by Vito D'Anna (1718-1769), the "Mary Magdalene", attributed to Gioacchino Martorana (18th century), and two paintings from 1798 by Isidoro Gallo, "Saint Leoluca and San Gregorio".
The “Madonna of the Chain” is the work of an unknown 19th century painter, while the “Death of Saint Benedict” is by Pietro Novelli. The temple also holds the so-called "Crucifix of the Chain", perhaps dating from the thirteenth century, which is particularly venerated by the people of Corleone.
Churches of San Domenico and Saint Augustine
The Church of San Domenico is divided into three naves, and contains many paintings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. Among these, we mention the 19th century painting of "Saint Thomas Aquinas".
The origins of the Church of St. Augustine date back to the 14th century but it was rebuilt in Baroque times. Inside there is an important work of Giuseppe Ribera (1591-1652) depicting the “Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew.”
Other Corleone monuments
Notable civic monuments in Corleone include the 19th century palaces, such as the Provenzano Palace, now seat of the Civic Museum; the Cammarata Palace with its bell tower, and the ruins of the “Castello Soprano” with the Saracen Tower and “Rocca Sottana”.
The Pippo Rizzo Civic Museum is in the Provenzano Palace and holds many important archaeological finds among which especially are the “Milliary” of Aurelius Cotta*.
*The stone, discovered more than 50 years ago, was attributed to the Consul Caius Aurelius Cotta and dates back to 252 or 248 BC. It is a find of great value because, according to Professor Prag, it is 'the only Roman milestone found in Sicily'. The attribution to Caius Aurelius Cotta, who was consul in Sicily in 252 appears like this: [CA] VRELIVS. [LE] COTTAS. According to Professor Prag the milestone, in Roman times placed along roads to indicate distances, had a specific military function and also symbolized the conquest by the Romans.
You will also see the two large rocks that effectively define the limits of the medieval city. The “Rocca Sottana” is to the west and practically within the town, while the “Rocca Soprana” to the east has the so-called Saracen tower, one of the towers that made up the protection system of the medieval village.
The Corleone region
No visit to Corleone would be complete without exploring the surrounding region. The natural areas include many nature reserves of which the largest are Carcaci, Monte San Genuardo and Ficuzza (the game reserve of King Ferdinand III of Bourbon, 1753-1815).
Here in 1803 Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia (1729-1814) built a hunting lodge, a building set against the backdrop of the limestone walls of the fortress Busambra at the foot of the wood, near the small village of Ficuzza. It is now possible to make excursions here by foot and by bicycle.
Inside the Nature Reserve of Monte San Genuardo and in the territory of Contessa Entellina is the Abbey of Santa Maria del Bosco.
Exploring this area, so rich in scenery and history, you certainly can't miss the chance to enjoy the typical products of Sicily and of Corleone. In particular try the Corleone variety of tomatoes which are cut in half and hung on racks to dry in the sun, then preserved in olive oil, to be eaten later.
Also good is the wine of Corleone, ideal to accompany dishes like the classic "caponata", pasta with squid ink, the macaroni with sardines, Catalan salad, “carpaccio” of octopus and swordfish rolls.
See also Corleone history and etymology.
Selected places to visit near Corleone
See the Sicily guide for more travel ideas...