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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ceramic Art: The wonderful tiles of Caltagirone


In the hills of central Sicily the Cathedral of Caltagirone--its dome covered with ceramic tiles--is just one the many wonders in this city of colorful tile (Baroque and Art Nouveau buildings, too). Ceramics everywhere.......I resisted the temptation to buy more pottery (my house has enough and there's no more room), except one small putto, because I can look at these beautiful photos and remember how it felt to be there.


The green pinecone i
s a prominent symbol in this region. It reminds me of the pineapples in Williamsburg.


A stroll through the local park reveal planters, light fixtures, fences in a variety of colors. The common colors for the tiles are blue, green, yellow and orange, in an endless variety of creative patterns. Figural designs and shapes are thoroughly Italian, especially with the masks, but some geometric designs in the tiles hint of an Arabic background.





Nearby is a ceramics museum. Scalloped arches are an Islamic feature. The town's name comes from the Arab "kalat" meaning castle and "geron" meanting caves. Arabs or Saracens ruled Sicily from the 9th-11th centuries, contributed much to the local pottery industry before the Normans came. Like so many parts of medieval Sicily, the Arab-Norman genius combined to form a marvelous craftsmanship.



Then in the 17th an Italian style came on with
strong force in its Baroque phase, as on the steps below built in 1606.
Thanks to Mark for the photos immediately above and below.



Each of the 142 steps of the Scala Monte Santa Maria del Monte has a different ceramic tile design. Today ceramic shops line the streets at the foot of the steps, and its a particularly good place to buy dinnerware, or ceramic figurines. Even the Bridge of San Francesco is patterned with Majolica tiles