Museo dell'Inquisizione


Housed in the lower floors and basements of 14th-century Palazzo Chiaromonte Steri, this fascinating museum explores the legacy of the Inquisition in Palermo. Thousands of 'heretics' were detained here between 1601 and 1782; the honeycomb of former cells has been painstakingly restored to reveal multiple layers of their graffiti and artwork (religious and otherwise). Visits are by one-hour guided tour only, conducted in English and Italian and departing roughly every 40 to 60 minutes from the ticket desk.

Religiously themed graffiti includes a depiction of Christ being tortured by Spanish soldiers and images of local protector saints San Rocco and Santa Rosalia. Works of a more profane nature include hearts pierced with arrows or instruments of torture, elaborate maps of Sicily where other prisoners were invited to add missing details, an inquisitor holding the scales of justice, and a caricature of another inquisitor astride a defecating horse adjacent to the latrine.

The tour also takes in two works by noted Sicilian modern artist Renato Guttuso: first, a copy of his graphic depiction of the strangulation murder of inquisitor De Cisneros by the handcuffed 22-year-old prisoner Diego La Mattina; and Guttuso's original, masterful 1974 painting of the Vucciria market. Figures depicted in the latter work include the artist, his wife and Guttuso's much younger lover. The painting can be visited without touring the museum (€4).

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