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“Fascinating glimpse of the past”

Palazzo Steri - Chiaramonte - Carcere dei penitenziati
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Palermo City Hop-on Hop-off Tour
Ranked #13 of 323 things to do in Palermo
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
74 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 36 helpful votes
“Fascinating glimpse of the past”
Reviewed July 31, 2013

Palazzo Steri (Chiaramonte), at Piazza Marina, was the seat of the Inquisition in Palermo from 1605-1782. Now owned by the university, it has recently opened its doors to tourists. For 5 euro I got a personal guided tour by a student (in Italian, but she said they do English too). We started in the prison in the building next door, the Carcere dei Penitenziati. Here you can see the cells, the walls of which are almost totally covered by drawings and poems done by the prisoners (accused of heresy or witchcraft), some of which referred to what they went through at the hands of the inquisitors.There are no gruesome instruments of torture on display as after the Inquisition was abolished they destroyed all the equipment and records of both the inquisitors and prisoners to avoid any attempts at vengeance. But the drawings and poems themselves are very powerful. There were also a couple of crude maps of Sicily. The only piece of furniture was a copy of the chair that the priest Diego La Matina was tied to for months of torture before being burned at the stake. After that we went into Palazzo Chiaramonte itself and saw other rooms before passing through a room with Guttuso's masterpiece 'La Vucciria' on display. Seemed a strange place to stick a work of art but I was delighted to see it. A fascinating though rather grim addition to the tourist sights of Palermo.

Visited July 2013
2 Thank Neve97
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Dublin, Ireland
Level Contributor
105 reviews
49 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 103 helpful votes
“Long history”
Reviewed May 18, 2012

Palazzo Chiaramonte has a long and bloody history. When it was built, the sea came to within a hundred meters (and as Edward Longshanks learned in Wales, it's a good idea to build your castles by the sea). The head of the Chiaramonte family, Andrew, rebelled in the 14th century, and duly lost his own head to the Kings' axe right outside the Palace.
It was used by the Spanish Inquisition (the phrase "kill 'em all and let God sort them out" originated with these lovely people) and their prisoners left their marks - prayers, name, curses and all sorts - scratched on the walls in the attic and in the dungeons.
Now home to Gattuso's famous "la Vucceria" painting.

Visited July 2011
Thank sean.casaidhe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
sanctuary cove
Level Contributor
127 reviews
63 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 60 helpful votes
“A spectacular fortress house”
Reviewed May 2, 2012

The palazzo is a remarkable physical reminder of the great fortified houses that characterised nobles' ongoing confrontations with church and state for centuries in Sicilian history. You can't go in unless there's a function on, but just the exterior is magnificent. The streetscape was modified just so that this palazzo could be built - and the last scion of the family was executed outside by his political opponents 600 years ago. If you can get in, there are magnificent original ceiling artworks.

Visited October 2011
2 Thank jane s
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
427 reviews
39 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 113 helpful votes
“Site of nquisition”
Reviewed November 30, 2011

Interesting Steri Castle, but make sure that the dungeons are open the day you go. You can see where prisoners of the Inquisition were held and view many of their paintings on the walls (mostly of a religious suffering nature). It's worth a hour of your time.

Visited November 2011
2 Thank Fontek
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
9 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
Reviewed December 10, 2009

The Palace is very well kept and it is also used for conferences. The visit is well worth especially if have a fascination for the history of the Inquisition in Europe.

1 Thank MarinaManchester
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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