|Comune di Calatafimi-Segesta|
|• Mayor||Vito Sciortino|
|• Total||154 km2 (59 sq mi)|
|Elevation||338 m (1,109 ft)|
|• Density||47/km2 (120/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Patron saint||Most Holy Crucifix and Madonna of Giubino|
|Saint day||May 3|
The full name of the municipality was created in 1999 and is meant to highlight the presence within its territory of the 5th century BC Doric temple of Segesta, widely regarded as one of the most intact of its type. Adjoining the temple, on a nearby hilltop, there is a 2nd-century Roman amphitheater.
The town was developed during the age of the Muslim emirate of Sicily, when it was known as Qal`at(a)fīmī ( قلعة فيمي ), referring to the defensive castle overlooking the town, now partially restored from ruins. One hypothesis for the castle's name derives it from "Castrum Phimes" - a stronghold protecting the territory of a Roman period nobleman mentioned by Cicero, Diocles Phimes. Another hypothesis derives it from "Castle of Euphemius", possibly referring to the 5th century Byzantine patriarch by that name or, more likely, to the 9th century Euphemius of Sicily, a legendary figure who probably brought Muslim mercenaries to Sicily in 827 to help defend his throne, only to have them conquer the island for themselves.
Calatafimi's part of Sicily was one of the first to be occupied by the Aghlabids from Ifriqiya in their conquest of the island, and was one of the last centres of Islamic culture after the end of the Norman rule. The excavations near Segesta have revealed a 12th-century Islamic necropolis and mosque. There are also references to an Islamic-period town called Calathamet (Qal`at al-Hammah - قلعة الحمّة), on the border of the territories of Calatafimi and Castellammare del Golfo, possibly equating the modern Terme Segestani.
From 1336 until 1860, Calatafimi was a feudal territory under Habsburg and Spanish nobles, despite three attempts to regain an independent status (in 1399, 1412 and 1802).
It was on a hill near Calatafimi, called Pianto Romano, that, in 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi and his Mille first encountered the troops of the Bourbons on a battlefield (see the Battle of Calatafimi). This was the first significant battle for the Italian unification (or Risorgimento) and it was in this battle that Garibaldi was said to have uttered the famous battle cry: "Here we make Italy, or we die". A memorial, in the form of large stone obelisk containing an ossuary of the remains of those fallen in the battle, currently marks the hilltop.
In his later life, the 19th-century English novelist Samuel Butler made annual trips to Calatafimi, and a street of the town was named after him. Summer theatres is held in the Roman amphitheatre at Segesta every other year. A new archaeological museum is being created that will show findings from the Segesta archaeological excavations.
In 1901 the population of Calatafimi was recorded as 11,426. Subsequent major emigrations due to poverty and unemployment kept the number from growing and, after 1950, the population began decreasing. Prior to 1900, the main destination was Tunisia, after 1900 it was the United States and Argentina.
After World War II, Canada and Australia became destinations, as did Germany and Great Britain and the major cities of the Italian mainland. The census of 2004 showed Calatafimi with only about 7,500 permanent residents, although the physical size of the town had grown, as families occupied larger residences. Following severe damage in the 1968 Belice Valley earthquake, a new section of town, Sasi, was built on former farmlands about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from the old town centre.
The church of the Santissimo Crocifisso was built to house the so-called Most Holy Crucifix (see Culture) at about 1700. The co-patroness of the town is the Madonna of Giubino; a church was built in 1721 to house an allegedly miraculous marble-relief icon of the madonna, which is brought to a country chapel during the summer. (A copy of the relief is housed in the Church of St. Joseph in Brooklyn, New York, giving testimony to the large emigrant community of Calatafimesi who lived in Brooklyn in the early 20th century.)
The "mother" church of the town is San Silvestro Papa (dedicated to Pope Sylvester), restored at about 1500.
These are the most important religious events at Calatafimi-Segesta:
- the Most Holy Crucifix: In 1657 they held the first procession of the Most Holy Crucifix - an ebony-figured crucifix credited for miraculous healings of some of the town's elite. This town festival received additional impetus in 1728, when Calatafimi's civilian militia (the Maestranza guild of artisans) successfully defied a Habsburg edict to disarm by being declared the protectors of the town's churches. A tradition was established of holding a three-day town festival of the Santissimo Crocifisso every third year. Recently, however, the period stretched - first to every five years and now every seven or eight years. The most recent festivals were in 1997, 2004, and 1–3 May 2012.
- Corpus Domini: every year in the Church of San Michele they realize a carpet with coloured sawdust, coarse salt and chalk. The work, placed in the Church central navy, measures about 9 metres by 6. This tradition, born in the second postwar period, was interrupted from 1990 to 2007. Each year in front of the Church of Maria Addolorata (Our Lady of Sorrow) in Corso Garibaldi they carry out a “decking with flowers.” It is a long carpet (made with flowers) on which only the Holy Sacrament can pass on during the procession.
- The festivity in honour of the Blessed Child Mary: it is held every two years (from 5th to 8th September) in the small Church of Our Lady of Graces in contrada Affacciatura, near the town centre. This feast links faith and folklore and is rich in games and tradition.
- The Living Crib: it is held in the characteristic small streets of the town centre, with concerts, parades and Christmas songs. You can see walkons in period costume, artisans’ workshops, farmers and old jobs. This manifestation is organized by the cultural Association “Calatafimi è…”
The economy of Calatafimi is primarily agricultural, the most important crops being citrus, grapes and olives.
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- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Calatafimi". Encyclopædia Britannica 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.