GIBELLINA : From Devastation to a Modern Show Place
The original Gibellina was an old settlement, about 80 km from Palermo, that grew in the Middle Ages and flourished in the 17 century as evidenced by records of their very large and highly decorated church the Chiesa Madre and the large town piazza of that period. The main part of village clung to the slopes of Monte Roccatonda; with the main street being a flight of stairs and houses abutting each other to either side of it. The township had little infrastructure and many of the houses were without running water. Vehicular access terminated at the plaza at the foot of the township. The 6000 inhabitants were mostly peasants who cultivated the orchards, vineyards and the fields of the Belice Valley bellow, while their ancestors and loved ones rested in the little, well tended, cemetery on the shoulder of the mountain. The earthquake that struck the Belice Valley on the night of 15 January 1968 affected 10 townships. The worst destruction, where no structure was left intact, and where the largest loss of life occurred, was in Gibellina. The homeless were subsequently housed in prefabricated buildings or dispersed into other communities and their villages abandoned. While the construction of the new city was ongoing, the citizens of old Gibellina were crowded for over 10 years in prefabricated buildings at the foot of their destroyed town. Their life, sorrows and joys were all connected to this piece of land that lay destroyed before them and which they were now going to abandon for the newer modern town, an alien place. When the citizens moved to the new town and the prefabricated buildings were removed, the authorities tried to ease the loss by using the ruins as a backdrop to memorial ceremonies and theatre performances, but the eyesore and the pain of separation remained.
From a natural disaster to the “Dream in Progress”

Ludovico Corrao, the Mayor of Gibellina at the time, wanted to keep the tight knit community together and to build a new town 20 km away at Salinella on a plane in the Belice Valley. Gibellina Nuova was built with freeway and railway access. Prestigious city planners, architects and top Italian artists were called in to contribute to the “Dream in Progress”, the name given to the project. They created a town with wide streets, single two story dwellings surrounded by gardens, piazzas, public gardens, and buildings of postmodern architecture. Modern sculptures that adorn every piazza and road junction were gifted by artists. Their gifts filled a Modern Art Museum befitting a metropolis. New Gibellina was built as a show case for a modern city.

The Cretto
The prominent artist Alberto Burri came to Gibellina at the invitation of Ludovico Corrao, this visit culminated by the most incredible sculpture - the Cretto spreads over 29 acres and covers the ruins of Old Gibellina turning a devastation into a new and unique work of art, the largest sculpture in the world.

Text by Judy Rozner, excerpt from: "A comparative study of two large scale commemorative sculptures", an Honour's thesis for the School of Culture and Communication in the University of Melbourne. 2007
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