The little town of Acate which once was called
"Biscari"was founded in 1494 on a plane not far from the sea on the valley of the Dirillo river, today full of
olive groves, citrus orchards and vineyards.
The nucleus of Biscari was the homonymous castle and the annexed church
of San Vincenzo. Some centuries later in 1938 Biscari was called Acate.
For both the permanent symbol was, and is still today, the Castle of
the Princes which from the top of the hill on which today the town stands
has always dominated the cultivated valley of Acate.
The Castle of the Princes of Biscari
The plaque indicating the year of foundation
with the coat of arms of the owner of this castle has unfortunately
been lost. But it is sure that the castle was built at the end of the
fifteenth century and that later it was modified many times. Its present
aspect is the result of changes made by the Prince Vincenzo Patern˛
the fourth one of the dynasty. In the south-eastern wing of the castle
there are the jails, while in the northern wing we can find the structure
of the ancient portal which has been bricked in. In the central part
there are twelve windows on both lateral wings.
The devotion to the statue of San Vincenzo which is in the church next
to the castle, is related to a story that also shows traces of legend.
In the eighteenth century the Pope Clemente
XI gave the Prince Vincenzo Patern˛ Castello the mortal remains of the
martyr San Vincenzo. The story mixed to the legend tells that the Prince
hopelessly fell in love with a beautiful woman of the people who lived
near the castle and who accepted the Princes advances starting
with him a love affair. But the princess Anna Scamacca Bonaiuto discovered
the intrigue and ordered that the young Princes lover was shut
up in a jail of the castle and that her body was sprinkled with honey
so that bees might eat her. The Princess later repented of her deed;
the Pope proposed to forgive her if she had put inside the Castle the
body of a martyr buried in the Vatican. The cult of San Vincenzo and
the famous palio are related to this story too. The feast and the Palio
have taken place in Acate since 1722, to celebrate the arrival of the
martyrs body that landed at the port of Scoglitti shipped from
Rome. The Prince, on horseback lead the ceremonial column with the urn
of the martyr from Scoglitti to Biscari. This historical ride is commemorated
each year through the Palio.
The Church of San Vincenzo
The church was originally dedicated to St.Joseph. but
its name was changed after the martyrs burial.
The fašade of the church is regular, the interior has a central nave
and two lateral aisles; the columns, the stuccoes and a beautiful organ
adorn the simplicity of the structure. The relics of San Vincenzo are
held on a refined eighteenth century crystal urn.
Acate: from the prehistory to the Middle-Age
The settlement found in the area of Poggio-Bidine
where huts, furnishings and funerary altars have been broughtto light date back to the Bronze Age. Archaeological excavations
in different areas have found traces of the natives of the Island the
Siculi, of Roman rulers and Byzantines. And with the Saracens
invasion for the first time a name appears: Odogrillo. The etymology
of this word might come from the Arabic "Wayd-Ikrilu", "the
river of Acrilla" which would have been changed to Odogrillo river,
until the last root Dirillo. What is left today of the built up area
of Odogrillo are only the ruins of the big wall in the Casale area.
After the Vespers rebellion against the Angevins, Odogrillo became a
university too ( the corporation which were obliged to pay taxes) and
Casale passed from the Sicilian Baron Alaimo Dea Lenitni to the Chiaramonte
family. Odogrillo declined, to flourish again with the name of Biscari
around its castle.