Building of modest dimensions which, thanks to its history and his “Cammara Picta”, represents an important sight to see for its cultural relevance. The Town Hall of Termini Imerese lies in Piazza Duomo, by the magnificent Duomo di San Nicola. During the centuries of the roman domination, this area was the city forum, where the public and social life of the population took place, it could range from markets to business, from acts of justice to religious ones.

The Building

The building process of the town hall started between the 16th and 17th century. Across the decades, the building was restored and modified several times. One of the most important changes was made in the 20th century with the dismantling of the old ‘Teatro Comunale Stesicoro’ (also known as as Regio Teatro San Ferdinando) placed inside the building. Another important modification was the shutdown of the city prison placed inside the building. The main entrance can be reached through two flights of stairs . The door is characterized by two headless Caryatids , by a sculpted shell on the top, symbol of San Giacomo, and by a high relief eagle.

The building, before becoming the town hall, was the seat of the city senate which gathered in the, today called, ‘Sala del Magistrato’ (which is an additional name by which the ‘Camma Picta’ is called).

The Sala La barbera or “Cammara Picta”

The room is decorated by six couplet of panels which depict fampus characters of the ancient Himera and Thermae.

The “Cammara Picta” is the main attraction of the building from an artistic point of view. The walls are decorated by frescos which depict scenes from the ancient history of the city. The author of the masterpieces is “Vincentius La Barber IN.P.TER 1610” as written in the cartouche above the large window. The panelles ceiling is oil painted with allegoric scenes and with a large coat of arms. The city crest decorates the entrance door.

Eracle tra le Ninfe

This is Fresco recreates the invitation from Athen to the Nymphs to welcome Hercules. The Myth, as described by Diodoro Siculo di Agra in his work “La Genioneide”, shows how the hero arrived in the northern part of Sicily coming back from his 10th labour, the defeat of Gerione, the strongest amongst the living men. Once arrived in Thermae, the goddess Athena, to which the land of Himera was sacred, invited the Nymphs to let hot water flows to let Hercules rest from his last labour.

La fondazione di Himera

The description below the fresco lists all the names of the people who built the city. Also here, myth and history are combined by giving us a unique scene. The artwork shows mount San Calogero, in an unrealistic perspective protecting Himera, where ordinary life goes on. The scene takes place after the foundation of 648 b.C. made by Euclide, Simo and Sacone. Himera was placed in a strategic point in the market way of the Mediterranean sea. It was not only this for the Greeks, but also a real colony. The cult of Athena, who was the protector of the land, was, in fact, practiced in several temples, which can be visited nowadays in the open air museum of Buonfornello. The polis lasted only 239 years, it was destroyed in 409 b.C. bytì the Carthaginian people, as shown in another artwork by the Architect La Barbera.

Viaggio di Stesicoro a Corinto

The fresco represents Stesicoro while quickly moving towards Corinto on one of the four ships, in order to obtain military help. The description below specifies how the enemies deceived Stesicoro and made him go to the tyrant Falaride, who would have later condemned him to death. Stesicoro had recently written the tail of the horse and the deer, after a public discussion  about the will of expansion of the tyrant towards Himera. This gave him exile.

Distruzione di Himera del 409 b.C.

Besides representing the foundation, La Barbera, also shows the destruction of the city by the Carthaginian in 409 b.C.

Scipione restituisce alla città di Thermae le statue trafugate a Himera dai Cartaginesi

The event is described by Cicerone in his “Orazione delle Verrine”. In the fresco, La Barbera reèresents the scene near the coast of Thermae. Here the artist draws buildings which were not present at the time represented. There are, in fact, the Duomo, the castle and the amphitheatre, all built afterwards.

Pompeo fermato da Stenio

The fresco shows Stenio right before saving the city of Thermae from the repression of Pompeo. The entire population of Thermae was accused of sustaining Gaio Mario, who lost against Silla, once ruler of the city. Stenio showed his courage by encountering Pompeo at the entrance of the city and pleading guilty of sustaining Mario on behalf of the city. For his courage, Pompeo, graced him and the whole city, as also described by Plutarco in his work “Vite parallelle”.

Stenio che si oppone alla rapacità di Verre

La Barbera represented again Stenio as an hero for his city, while opposing Verre, governor who wanted to take three statues belonging from the city of Himera. Cicerone then, as he told in his work “Verrine” defended Stenio in court after Verre accused him of treason.

Stenio accusato da Verre

This scene represents Stenio being accused from the senate. The expression of the main character alludes to the surprises of being wrongly accused.

Stenio difeso da Cicerone

Shows Stenio kneeling before the senate. Thanks to Marco Tullio Cicerone, Stenio is cleared by the infamous accusations.

I personaggi illustri

The characters represented in the panels of the “Cammara Picta” are all famous people of the city of Termini Imerese duting their age.

Mamertino

Surveyor and related to another famous character of the city, Stesicoro. He was a master of mathematics and was well-known also in the cities nearby.

Tisia di Imera

Also known as Stesicoro, was a famous poet, often compared to other great poets such as Pindaro, Bacchilide, Saffo, Ibico, Simonide, Alceo, Alcmane and Anacreonte. La barbera portraits him in two of his frescos. In the first one as a child in his crib, the fresco is in fact called “Tisia bambino”. In the second one he is standing with a lyre.

Lionate o Elianatte

Enigmatic character for the lack of historical sources. He is knows as mathematician, poet and especially jurist. La Barbera represents him as an old man with a long beard. He is depicted as a man born “from the law”. He is the last one of the “knowledge triad”.

Crisone

Crisone lived during the 5th century b.C. He was triumphany during three Olympic cgames, in 448 b.C., 444 b. C: and 440 b.C. Even Platone talks about his majestic actions, referring to him as the “professor of running”. Also Pausania and Diodoro Siculo wrote about him. The latter though, wrongly, gave him credit for a 2nd place and not a 3rd during the Olympic games of 440 b.C.

Stenio

Roman patrician from Termini Imerese, was one of the most populare characters of the roman era. In particulare, he is reminded for saving the city of Thermae from the repression of Pompeo. The population was guilty of supporting Gaio Mario, an opponent of the governor of the time, Silla. Stenio showed his courage by meeting Pompeo at the entrance of the city and pleading guilty for the whole city. Pompeo admired his courage and let him and the whole city go, as written in “Vite parallele” from Plutarco. Later on, Stenio became again an hero for the city by opposing Verre, who was governor at the time and wanted to take over three provinces of Himera. Cicerone, who told the story in his work ”Verrine” defended Stenio in court against the accusations of treason by Verre. Cicerone, finally made all the charges fall.

Ergotele

Even though he was from Creta, he became a citizen of Himera after Trasideo tried to repopulate the province. He was very important in several sport contests during the 5th century b.C. He was a specialist in “dolichos”(a sport similar to a marathon) in Olimpia, Delfi, Corinto and Nemea. He was a beloved athlete, so much that Pindaro dedicated an “Olimpica” to him.

Bibliografia:

  • “A spasso con Stenio” di Manuela Sinatra e Barbara Indorante.
  • “Termini Imerese Città Romana; Itinerario Archeologico”, di Roberto Tedesco.
  • “Da Stesicoro a Stenio: Due civiltà un solo popolo; La Cammara Picta del palazzo del Magistrato di Termini Imerese” di Roberto Tedesco

Immagini: Gentilmente donate da Roberto Tedesco

Revisione: Gentilmente effettuata da Manuela Sinatra

Traduzione: Gentilmente realizzata da Daniele Greco

di Francesco Marramaldo