Montemaggiore Belsito

Montemaggiore Belsito - June 2002

Montemaggiore Belsito is a community that is situated in the Province of Palermo, Sicily and located in the Madonie Mountains, ten miles SSE of Termini Imerese and about 44 miles from the City of Palermo. It is situated in the basin of the Torto River at 516 meters (1,693 feet) above sea level, in a central valley that is irrigated by both the Torto and Imera Rivers.

Archeologists have estimated that Montemaggiore existed before the 12th Century (1100ís ) as a small rural habitat. This territory was governed by the Byzantine and the Saracens during their invasion of Sicily. There are also traces, through archeological finds, of an Arabic presence.

Like many other areas of Sicily during the second half of the 13th century (1250-1299), Montemaggiore became populated by mountainous farmers of the Madonie. A gradual population decrease occurred following the abandonment of the local monastery. By the end of the 13th century, Montemaggiore was reduced to rubble.

In 1410, word circulated that a new Benedictine monastery had been founded by Count Francesco Ventimiglia. At that time, Montemaggiore was a feudal state belonging to Riccardello Filangeri. Filangeri had acquired the commune from Ventimiglia in exchange for his castle in Sperlinga in the first half of the 14th century (c. 1300-1350). From this time until the end of the 16th century (c. 1590), records indicate that Montemaggiore was uninhabited.

In 1598, Montemaggiore was temporarily renamed "Marchesato" as a concession by King Filippo II to Mariano Migliaccio Ventimiglia. In addition, Montemaggiore was touched by the vast process of reurbanization occurring in Sicilian territories through the 16th and 18th centuries (1500ís through 1700ís ). More precisely, a great internal immigration occurred during this period.

In 1624, Montemaggiore consisted of 185 homes occupied by a population of 964. By 1652, it grew to 303 houses with 1,260 residents. During the first half of the 17th century (1600-1650), it became a significant center housing a Monastery, a Benedictine Convent and at least three churches. The growth pattern can be attributed to the fertility and vastness of the area which attracted many farmers from the surrounding territory.

In 1851, the central part of the community, primarily made up of one level earthen homes, was destroyed by a massive landslide. There appears to have been a lack of knowledge or perhaps a lack of desire to build homes for the peasant and middle class It was at a much latter date that construction of homes began for these classes of people.

The concept of a Socialist state dates back to 1700. It remains a remarkable influence even in present day Montemaggiore.

The significant items that remain from the urban expansion are the churches, and the Palaces of Baucina and Saeli, the latter being build at the start of the 20th century (c. 1900).

Regarding itís name, the term Belsito, was added to Montemaggiore, after the Unification of Italy (c.1865)

In 1961 the population of Montemaggiore was 5,934 and by 1998 had reduced to approximately 4,000.

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