The History

It is very difficult to start outlining a chronological history of Petralia Sottana, but anyway it is necessary to find a starting point.

It is testified that the first civilizations and the consequent artistic events date back to 3000 BC, in fact several Palaeolithic and Neolithic testimonies have been found in the cave of “Vecchiuzzo” that is located in front of the village, in the so-called “Rocca delle Balate”.

The knowledge of the cave is quite remote, in fact it was a refuge for pastors, gypsum quarry workers and bandits. In June 1936 an history and archaeology passionate, whose name is Antonio Collisani, was the first to explore the cave. He and Francesco Tropea convinced Paolo Mingazzini, who was at that time director of the Archaeological Museum of Palermo, of the importance of the discovery. In 1937 a campaign of excavations was set out and it brought to light countless clay material. Unfortunately, it was not possible to carry out any stratigraphic investigation, because of the mixture of detritus and material, probably caused by water infiltration. The finds are now exposed and preserved in the Regional Archaeological Museum of Palermo.

It is difficult to follow the history up to the age of Greek colonization (750-730 BC), or to affirm that Greeks arrived near the mountains of the Madonie.

On the contrary, the presence of Romans, who came in Sicily as conquerors, is more certain in the area.
We know that when Romans were arriving, the inhabitants of ancient Petra preferred to negotiate the surrender with the winners rather than to front each others, because they took the outcome for granted. This fact led to the inclusion of Petra in the cities called decumane, with a different treatment in the request for contributions and support to the Roman Treasury. A part from Cicero’s testimony (72 BC), who tells that he had been in Sicily and in Petra to research a precise documentation about the precursor Verre’s abuses, Roman remains are found in the district Muratore where there is a torcularium (that is a typical complex to press the grapes).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the fate of the district is unknown during the different invasions of the Vandals (Gluserico), the Heruli (Odorico), the Ostrogoths (Theodoric). During their presence in Sicily, chronicles only record the most important fighting and the most significant events in the most considerable Sicilian places.

We do not even know information about the period after the year 551, when the Byzantines liberated the territories of Southern Italy and Sicily from the Barbarians and started to control the island life for almost three hundred years. The dissemination of fortified castles, that were built quite everywhere to defend themselves in case of hostile attacks, is due to their presence.

The news about the Arabic domination period (from 820 to the coming of Normans) are richer regarding place names, farming and organization of the Madonie. It is sure that there was a mosque in Petralia (at that time Batarliah) and so a significant presence of Arabs and of a Lord named Maimun (Gaito). It is also probable that Petralia was seat of an Emirate

The Norman conquest (1062) overwhelmed the Arabic settlements (it was also a religious persecution), for that reason nothing or very few traces remain today in Sicily definitely attributable to the Arabs. With the Normans, the long period of feudalism started and continued in Sicily and southern Italy until the proclamation of the Constitution in 1812 with all the well known consequences. In the first period, Petralia was a state-owned land, probably it had a count called Giliberto di Monforte (1201), then it was absorbed by the count-land of Collesano.

We have historical information about the existence of Petralia Sottana and Petralia Soprana in 1258, when Manfred, son of Emperor Frederick II, appointed Enrico Ventimiglia to be Count of Collesano. Both Petralia Soprana and Sottana regrouped in the barony of Petralie, lived Ventimiglia’s events, both in the unification of the two count-lands Geraci – Collesano and in their separation.

After 1412, the Regnum ended and the Viceroyalty begun. Pietro Cardona became lord of Petralia Sottana and Soprana in 1444, he was son of the first viceroy of Sicily. After the marriage of the widow Moncada of Paterno with the Duke of Montalto, Petralia is located almost in the centre of a huge heritage that included the territories of San Mauro, Collesano, Geraci, Caltanissetta and Paternò. Moncada Montalto’s last heirs were members of Alvarez Ferradina family of Toledo, whose last heir Francis Alvarez lived until the end of feudalism in 1817..

With the House of Bourbon, Petralia followed the fate of the constitution of the Regno delle due Sicilie (Kingdom of the Two Sicilies), with its Decurionato (the municipal administration of that time) and its administrative bodies, its Civic Council and its prerogatives. In 1860, a group of volunteers relating to Garibaldi participated in the liberation of Sicily from the House of Bourbon and the establishment of the unity of Italy. Petralia was against the House of Bourbon and in the front line to the formation of the new nation, in fact it took part in the various uprisings (1812, 1820, 1848), that were all smothered in blood until the revenge of the 60s.

Some Petralia Sottana is citizens were antifascist and the village was very involved in the founding of the Italian Republic.

On 21st July 1943 the first American trucks entered in the Avenue Paolo Agliata.

Petralia Sottana, especially its population, has always shown active interest in the facts of modern and contemporary history, in fact it has actively participated in various movements for social redemption. Its citizens strongly fought during trade unions and political struggles to obtain land reform and other rights.