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Some history of: Horatio Nelson  The Maniace Abbey

Nelson Museum

The Ducea noble wing that now has become a museum, was once the residence of Horatio Nelson heirs (the Castle).

It is probable that it represents the most consistent disposition of volumes of the old Benedictine monastery.

Certainly is the one which arrived to us in the best condition as, once passed to the Nelson, was restructured and used as permanent residence.

Many rooms and structures that constitute the building complex were built during the first half of the XIX° century, when was reclaimed and annexed what was left of
the ancient Benedictine abbey;

were restructured above all the rooms that went from the right of the church portal going around the cloister.

The noble wing, placed to first floor, looks on the botanical garden and the principal court yard of the complex, at the center of which, to honor Horatio Nelson, there is the large Celtic cross wanted by Lord Alexander Nelson-Bridport at the end of XIX° century.

A long corridor gives access to all the rooms looking west on the English garden, on which can be seen the biggest part of furnishing left by the heirs of the Nelson family.

In the long corridor are exposed pictures and prints showing the English admiral and his heirs, autograph letters
of the British Royals, medals and naval battle plans, military orders and archaeological finds recovered during recent excavations executed for the Dukedom reconstruction.

An atmosphere of enchantment shall envelop the visitor going through all the evocative palace
corners, looking though the many windows the majestic trees, the green meadows or the edges
of the flowering garden, the courts and the walls of the ancient abbey or the simple architecture of
Santa Maria church.

In the rooms of the Nelson you can't see any longer a butler or the many servants, the kitchens, the stoves and the fireplaces are off and everything is still, but in the great silence comes to the memory the history and the magic of the place remained unaltered but also the sufferings of the poor people of Bronte dispossessed for centuries of its wealth.

The rooms preserve objects of common use and many works of art belonged to the Nelson, furnishings and furniture of great value of various styles, vases and watches of the XIX° century, chests of excellent making, and excellent majolica, prints and paintings of English authors (Luny, Spencer, Elliot) china and the Nelson coat of arms.

Between the objects of common use and the relics of various kind, found in the rooms of the Museum there are
two crystal glasses and the bottle
with which, before dying, the admiral Nelson toasted to Victory after the defeat of the French float to the open sea of Cape Trafalgar (21 October 1805).


Unfortunately the Museum, just three years after the purchase by Bronte's Council, suffered in 1984 a very grave robbery of about twenty precious works (between paintings and furniture) that yet have not been recovered. Salvo Nibali, impassioned scholar and researcher of Sicilian monasticism, in his book "Il Castello Nelson" (The Nelson Castle) (1985) reports a list of the things stolen:

° disciple of G. Dughet: Figures in a wood landscape
° Meadows: Wood landscape with farmers and animals
° disciple of J. M.W. Turner: Figures on a sidewalk
° J. Wyck: Soldiers in a wheat field
° Monomy: Ships, battles and barges in rough sea
° Lietenant William Elliott: Victory with admiral Hood near Bastia.
° Thomas Luny: Action during the battle of the saints and the Capture of the city of Paris.
° Incisione su vetro a colori raffigurante la morte di Nelson.

Together with these pictures were also stolen furnishings and furniture of great value and styles; a walnut table of style XVII° century, four walnut bedside tables, a mirror, and three walnut chests of drawers of the XVIII° century.

Translated by Sam Di Bella

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