The Maria College
To the left of the Chiesa del Rosario
(Rosary Church), in an alley nearly hidden (via Giovanni Piccino), you find
the entry of the Maria College (a
building complex that extends itself as a rectangle until the Vincenzo
It was built, on design by the arch. D. Basilio Gullo, for initiative of
"donna" Maria Scafiti and her
three clergymen brothers, Vincenzo, Mariano and Raffaele and the head priest
On May 19 1780, the king Ferdinand gave
Maria Scafiti the faculty to found in Bronte a College of Maria for the
education and instruction of poor and orphan girls.
The Maria’s colleges were instituted to help the weaker and needier society,
with rules approved by the Pope, where was given free to young girls, poor and
orphan or "figlie della ruota" (daughters of the “wheel”),
shelter, maintenance and education religious and literary, “looking for them,
if necessary, even in the streets”.
Several of these were founded in Sicily
and kept by generous benefactors in many communities (the first one was
instituted in Palermo in 1731).
Two years earlier (1778), with thee opening of the Capizzi College, founded by
Ignazio Capizzi, the
problem of formation and scholastic instruction for the young men had been
But the girls of Bronte were excluded. It was unthinkable at the
time that some of them could frequent the school rooms of the Capizzi
In 1794 another generous priest, Giovanni Piccino,
left all his patrimony, for the completion of the work to the college
being built and to the poor girls who wanted to get married.
was the entry and the principal prospect of the Maria College, adjacent to
the Church Of The Rosary, at the end of 1800
The ravine on the left is now the flight of steps of via Piccino.
«The architect of the Maria College was a Basilian abbot. D.
Basilio Gullo. Built on the side of the Rosary church and other houses, the
College lacks any ornamental prospective.
The abbot architect did not have any esthetic or architectonic
sense». (So writes Benedetto Radice in his Historic memories of Bronte.). An image of the south wing of the Maria College
The college had many problems with the heirs of its benefactors, but
eventually, the first floor was built and the college open; later, after
nearly a century, with a royal decree of the 1 August 1875,
the statute was finally approved and the school could start its much needed
Fifty years earlier, in 1823, another illustrious brontese priest,
Pietro Graziano Calanna, had already started the "Royal Public
Schools" (Royal public schools) for the girls of Bronte.
1879 to conduct the college were
called the Daughters of Maria Ausiliatrice
(female branch of the Salesian company founded by S. Giovanni Bosco in
1872) and dedicated to the education and instruction of young girls. The Salesian Sisters (the one of Bronte was the first foundation of the
sixteen that opened in the island up to 1908) have been lavishing their
generous work since then till today.
The purpose for which it was born, Maria's College is today obviously
outdated; but the tireless work of the nuns in the education and the
formation of the young women of Bronte has never ceased.