To realize his dream, the humble priest Capizzi had to face and
overcome great difficulties and ostracisms but his enthusiasm and preparation
was solid: The construction of the majestic College was completed in a
relatively short time.
The 25 June 1771, in a letter to the
priest Sinatra of Bronte, Ignazio Capizzi selects the site where to build the
the neighborhood of S. Rocco in the center of the town.Two years later, in 1773, the land and few houses were
bought from the doctor Rosario Stancanelli and on
initiative of the Capizzi the priest Salvatore
Marvuglia, architect of the Palermo Council, was sent to
Bronte to inspect the place where the institute had to rise and
draw its structure.
Engaged the master carpenter Giuseppe
Lupo, and given to him all the necessary drawings, the work
The Capizzi himself came
to Bronte, staying at the Capuchin convent, and placed
the first stone the 1° May 1774.
Not withstanding the many difficulties, the works proceeded with alacrity and
a short time after were already completed the basement, the refectory,
the kitchens and the first floor.
In April of the 1777 many rooms were
finished but the works proceeded till 1778, when, on the 15 of October,
(four years after the placing of the first stone), finally the new school was
All this was not an easy task:
Capizzi had to overcome lots of obstacles, ironies, clashes and calumnies of
every kind; he had to beg everywhere for the necessary recourses; In the end
he had the support of everybody.
"Many gentlemen of Palermo, affectionate to him, gave him vast
sums, ... the wealthy ones in Bronte and of near country towns
contributed generously at the construction. The priests, the
nobles, all the people, having been asked, were carrying stones
and every other material on their shoulders". (G. De Luca, History of the town of Bronte)
On the 18 April 1778
King Ferdinand issued a decree by which the erection of the public
schools in Bronte, at the expenses of the Archiepiscopal Table Of
Monreale, had to comprise five schools: arithmetic, lower and
superior grammar, philosophy and theology.
In September were ready all the rooms for the school, the refectory,
the kitchen and the first floor for the boarders and the superiors.
With a deed drawn by the notary Abbadessa, Ignazio
Capizzi nominates the first superiors of the College:
Rector the priest Placido Minissale, Visitors dean Placido Diner,
External Vicar priest Bernadette Verso and the Confessor of the
Santa Scholastic monastery; Deputies the priests G. Puccini and
Puerto Oscillator, The baron V. Meli and Carlo
D. F. Galvan.
The 15 of October 1878 (four years
from the start), was celebrated the solemn opening of the school.
There were 37 boarding students, coming
from Bronte, Cesarò, Castell'Umberto, Biancavilla, Nicosia, Patti,
Centuripe, Pettineo, Randazzo, Mascali Troina, Regalbuto, Roccella,
Francavilla and, even 10 from Gangi.
The boarding fee was 14,25 onzes per
In the 1781 the kingdom president, D.
Antonio Cortada, approves the regulations of the College drawn by the
priest Capizzi. The first balance 1778-79 was closed
with a loss of 108 onzes, anticipated by the rector Minissale (total income
585 onzes, expenses 693). The College did not possess anything else, but
many brontese benefactors were still giving natural contributes (sheep,
The following year, 1779-80, the
boarders were 55, coming also
from Maletto, Sperlinga, Alcara, Castiglione, and the Municipal
Council of Bronte helped by conceding a contribution (the
"scasciato") in favor of 15 boarding students.
Obviously there were initial difficulties common to any activity,
also because most goods necessary to the life of the college were
purchased in other centers: pasta in Giarre; beans in Mascali;
walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts in Randazzo; cheeses in Francavilla;
wine in Linguaglossa and Piedimonte, etc..
The deputies then decided to lease some land to grow their own
cattle and sheep (they took in lease an enclosure and open grazing
land in Malaga district (with a salary to the farmer of 6 onzes a
In the meantime the number of the boarding students kept growing: in
1780-81, three years after the
opening, were 63, coming, especially, from Ucria, Ficarra,
Militello, Cerami; 66 in 1781-82
coming also from Castelbuono, Capizzi, Mirto, Sperlinga, Galati
Mamertino, Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, Tortorici, Raccuia, Mistretta,
Valguarnera, S. Salvatore di Fitalia, Caprileone, S. Marco, Caronia,
Two years after, in 1883, Ignazio Capizzi died at
Palermo in the Olivella convent’, where he was living;
the humble priest after the inauguration of the College very few
times came to Bronte as he was sure to have entrusted it to people
and priests not only honest and able but profoundly committed to the
success of the institute.
After twenty years, in 1796-97, the boarders were already 195.
The library was stocked with other books and the internal chapel with
It was built also a little theatre which was afterward lost.
Were also built other school rooms and dormitories.
To the boarding students, besides the catechism and the daily mess,
were not suggested further religious practices. The start of the lessons was fixed at the 15 of October and the end at the 31st of
August; holyday every Thursday afternoon and from the 1st of
September to the 14th of October.
The College had to bear considerable cost,
for the food of the boarders.
Everything had to be bought
in localities often distant from Bronte and middlemen had to be sent,
during harvest, in the various places of production of the goods to
It is hard to imagine the long chain of mules that
used to wind through the roads up to the far towns of the Nebrodi.
That also implied the preparation of space adapt to this use.
In other words the College became in little
time a source of work not only for the internal employee
but also for a large number of workers to whom it was insured a job
and economic tranquility.
It was produced this way in Bronte a welfare never seen before.
From 1805 to 1807 the
fourth wing of the College was built.
The works were resumed after the pause
of 1820-21 with the expense of 238 onzes for the construction of the
The 1st of November 1846 was started the new chapel
costing 314 onzes including the contribution of 12 tarì per year
requested to every boarding student.
The immediate success of the College (in 20 years the initial 37
boarders of 1778 became 195 in 1797) was also due to the ability
of the management adapted to the scholastic field,
abreast of time, updating and increasing
teaching subjects, that is surpassing the old scholastic
schemes so usual, at the time, in the Jesuitical colleges.
Starting in 1778, by decree of King Ferdinand,
with teaching of reading and writing, humanity and rhetoric; in 1782-83
rhetoric is separated from humanity and two new distinct professors
In 1808 the subjects had become ten: reading and writing, 2nd
class, 4th minor and 4th major, humanity, rhetoric, philosophy,
theology, to which in 1810 was added singing.
In 1837, when the name was changed in "Real Bourbon
College", was introduced a normal method and the class of
reading and writing was called "school of the young ones";
was added the teaching of Italian language while the theology was
divided in dogmatic and moral.
In 1850 was taught Italian literature, eloquence, geography and
French; four years later. canon law, mathematics, calligraphy and,
in 1864, physics.
Certainly, the facts that in that period shocked Italy and Europe
and the donation made by Ferdinand IV in 1799 of the brontese
territory to admiral Horatio
Nelson, had a negative influence on the life of the College:
the conditions of the brontese people worsened and the Council bled
itself white in continue court cases to defend its own rights with
an increasing internal conflicts between middle class and farm
laborers that eventually culminated in the terrible facts of 1848
and of 1860.
How not to hold against the light and see the difference between the
Dukedom and the College:
there only economic interests, sometime inequitable and oppressive,
here the banner of culture and social elevation of the people,
radiated even in lands not close to Bronte.
With the Italian unity the state centralization caused more crisis
to the College: in 1863-64 the
boarders gets down to 134 and
the school fee rises to 24 onzes, in 1883
the institute reaches a minimum of 50 students.
same year, with the introduction of petrol lighting, were installed
in the corridors, in the refectory and in the dormitories 62 crystal
lights and was perfected the last quarter of the College at a cost
of 226 onzes.
In 1892 the College was entrusted
to the Salesians who lasted until 1914.
In the same year
the rector don
Giuseppe Prestianni (one of the well deserving founders
of our civic Hospital ) made restore and complete
The paving of the entire institute was done again in
cement and all the original flight of steps in lava stone and bricks
replaced with marble. Against the advice of the eng Caselli, that
wanted to reassemble the architectonic unity of the College, was
erected also a new edifice to be used as shops and houses to let.
«This way, wrote Benedetto
Radice, submitting the
beauty to the useful, speculation killed aesthetics».
Towards the middle of the XIX century, being increased the number of
the boarders some corridors were restructured and changed to
After the construction of Bronte’s aqueduct, in 1940, the College was
provided with a very modern plant of bathrooms and showers.
Few years later, in July 1943, the Capizzi College was occupied by the
military authorities and used as a hospital, was partially damaged
by the disastrous bombing of the allied forces while a corner of it
was blown up, with mines, by the Germans.
The twenty years
commitment, from 1945 to 1966, of the new rector, father Giuseppe
Calanna and his deputy, father Giuseppe Zingale, was responsible for
its renewal and its recovery.
His rector ship, that lasted until few years ago, when because of
changed social-cultural conditions, the educational institute and
the boarding school were shut down, represents more than a quarter
of the long and fascinating history of the College.
Rapidly the boarders, from counting only thirty during the war, went up to 160.
All the parts damaged by the bombing were rebuilt, the new internal
areas were restructured, the dormitories, the gym, the kitchens, the
hygienic services were renovated, and the refectory and school rooms
And, finally, the rector Calanna and his deputy, father Zingale, succeeded in achieving an old desire of all the
people of Bronte: the transfer, after 211 years from his death, of
the remains of the Ven. Ignazio Capizzi from Palermo to Bronte where
they rest from the 17th of April 1994.
The Capizzi was built by the
people with the contribution of the Bourbon sovereigns
("Populus aedificavit, Rex dotavit",
was written on a tombstone placed on the front of the college).
Because of this was called Bourbon College from the initial name of
House; subsequently, in 1848, on initiative of the abbot
Giuseppe Castiglione, equal of the kingdom, the Sicilian Parliament
called it "National College"; after the unity of
Italy still changed name in that of "Real Capizzi College".
And such remained till today.
to the illuminated direction of a few cultured rectors Giuseppe
Saitta, Giacomo Biuso, Francesco
and the work of teachers like Luigi Pareti and Vincenzo
Schilirò, the College became in
centuries the most important cultural center of Eastern Sicily
(think that in 1845 the number of the boarders was reaching
300, almost 400 in 1851).
In the Capizzi College for over two centuries, was formed a
good part of the Sicilian managing class. In 1886, in the Italian Parliament, the Minister Longhi
defined it "forum of the Latinism".
Bronte and the south owes so much to the humble priest Ignazio Capizzi and to the college that he wanted: from
'700 to nearly all the 800, the Capizzi College, which in
those centuries had become the big forge of Sicilian knowledge,
shaped a country town fecund of illustrious personalities;
formed an impressive line of "elected intelligences",
famous prelates, pious men , philosophers, Latin poets,
jurists and economists, famous doctors.
But, above all, for over a century, made Bronte become a
powerful beacon of culture.
A great deal of Sicilians and Calabrians, until the recent
years fifty, studied and were formed in the Capizzi College:
between the others we like to remember
Antonino, Placido e Gesualdo De Luca, the brothers
(Enrico, Giuseppe, Eduardo),
Benedetto Radice, Alessandro D'Antona (from Riesi,
senator and surgeon),
Luigi Capuana (from Mineo, writer), Piccolo
Mineo, general procurator and first governor of
Eritrea), Mons. S. Nicotra (from Barcelona,
apostolic auditor to Vienna), etc..
Luigi Capuana, remembering with pleasure the
years spent in the Capizzi (from 1851 to 1854), an evening of
1910 was telling Benedetto Radice that "there, in
college, began his writing fever".
Obviously, in the last period, the school had
become of elite and exclusive for the cost of the studies that
was equivalent to the prestige and the tenor of the school
Now, closed the college, the Real Capizzi College tries to
enter a new operating phase, which completes the first,
traditional and specific - teaching of doctrine and the human
letters -, assuming the function of the educator center for
the standing formation of the citizen.
Thanks also to the initiative spirit and to the contribution
Sciavarrello, part of the college will
become finally seat of a rich art
Will collect up to 500 international graphics works, donated
by the institute for culture and art (on initiative of his
president Nunzio Sciavarrello) besides paintings, sculptures
and drawings of brontese artists (Rosetta Zingale and others)
and artists coming from well over 50 nations.
The premises of the college contain a
prestigious library and precious archives of the local history.
Preserve an ancient and still efficient scientific
laboratory (installed in 1924, with physics devices,
natural and chemical sciences), a little collection
of archaeological finds, an ancient musical tool to
recently restored, that belonged to the philosopher Nicola Spedalieri),
his self-portrait (of
1773), a scale model in wood reproducing the College in the
ancient version and his completion as it had been conceived in
the original version, works of the brontese
painters Agostino Attinà (1841-1893), Nunziato
Petralia (1859-1936), Rosetta
Zingale and several other canvas of particular interest.
the Capizzi College has represented as radiation center
of culture for eastern Sicily and as transition point
from the old to the new for the local middle class,
would be easy to demonstrate by showing the place of
origin of the boarding school students, especially the
most distant and less known.
However, we wish to point out that there was no city or
town, from the mountains to the cost, from where boarder
students would not come to study in Bronte. From
Capizzi, Nicosia, Valguarnera, Mistretta, and even from
Palermo; Comiso, Modica, Acireale, Alimena; Augusta,
Lipari, Aci S. Antonio, Messina, Castroreale, Resuttana;
Catania, Vizzini, S. Margherita Belice; S. Piero Patti,
Chiaramonte, Frazzanò and Taormina.
This can generate wonder on how would be possible that,
on places so distant and with absolutely inadequate
means of transportation of the time, the College of
Bronte could rise such interest.; nor would surprise us
that the new Sicilian nobility would find in Bronte the
means for their cultural formation.
Can be truly affirmed that Bronte became known in all of
Sicily, as never before. And what new flow of ideas
could could have exercised on the people of Bronte can
be found on the facts
of 1860". (Salvatore Cucinotta, Sicily and
Sicilians, Sicilian Editions Messina, 1996)
The life of the college and of the boarders
Royal College shall contribute to the most complete,
physical, intellectual and moral formation of the young
people admitted to it.
The teaching includes primary
school, equalised gymnasium ( whose exams are equal to
those sustained in state schools ), courses of secondary
school waiting to be equalised, scholastic pre-military
battalion, sport team “Nova Juventus” and optional piano
and foreign language courses.