“Sacred Landscape Sicily”, a journey through history

The “Sacred Landscape Sicily” project

The In the footsteps of Early Christian Rural Communities (social: Fb – Sacred Landscape; IG – Sacred Landacape Sicily), financed by the Society for Church Archaeology and by the University of Leicester, is about to start. ArcheoMe decided to follow this activity of academic research in detail because of its uniqueness. In fact, it’s not just a pure documentary analysis, but rather a “journey through time”, a physical exploration of the territory in order to trace the mobility through central Siciliy among the first rural Christian communities of the island.

A moment of field survey


Living the sacred landscape

The explorarion of the sacred landscape in central Siciliy will focus on the areas of Enna, Caltanissetta, and Catania. This is not a random choice: several scientific studies show the existence of a rich and complex archeological landscape. The objective of the research is to identify the possible routes that, centuries ago, were followed by the early Christians. We’re talking about the rural communities that inhabited the region between the 4th and the 9th century AD, which have left rural churches, monuments and necropolis. For a better understanding of the travel dynamics of this ancient time, the exploration will be done on foot, but not without a little help: in fact, two donkeys, the main “vehicles” of the past, will be used to transport the equipment, thus giving the right pace to the research activity. The Sacred Landscape Sicily Project rewrites the pure academic research in a new, experimental form, an active study of the territory in which it is immersed.

Aerial view of the rural church of Philosophiana

The path between landscape and archeology

The Sacred Landscape Sicily exploration, which will be documented by ArcheoMe, is led by Dr Margherita Riso of the University of Leicester, Director and founder of the project and by co-directors Matteo Randazzo and Andrea Arena. This journey will allow us to discover an unknown sicilian landscape: an overlooked archeological horizon, yet of great importance and unspeakable beauty. ArcheoMe will follow the research group through the roman villas of Gerace, Rasalgone and Casale; between the sizeable rural village of Philosophiana and other settlements inhabited from the prehistory to the Middle Ages; along the road axis of Imperial Roman age that connected Catania to Agrigento. The research team will attempt, once again, to bring all these puzzle pieces together. Quoting Dr Riso’s words, the times and the challenges of the journey “will be experimented by our team within a cultural landscape that has become a genuine container of collective and individual memory”.

Dr. Margherita Riso


Before the first steps

It should be known that, behind an experimental investigation such as that of Sacred Landscape Sicily, there is an extended period of study and scientific preparation. What might look like a “lighthearted hike” is actually quite different. The possible courses that have been identified by the research group are not influenced by the modern morphology of the territory, but rather by the ones of the Early Middle Ages. In particular, the philological research and the field survey are accompanied by the GIS (Geographic Information System) digital elaborations. Thanks to this software, it is possible to map the main elements of the landscape, both archeological and environmental, in order to grasp the hypothetical paths of the ancient road networks. At this point, “human” feedback is necessary to validate (or invalidate) the range of possibilities offered by the computer analysis.

The research team taking a selfie

It is about time: on the 24th of September 2022, Sacred Landscape Sicily will move its first steps with a presentation conference which will be held in Piazza Armerina, the picturesque ennese town that houses the famous Villa Romana del Casale, ever since at the center of a systematic archeological research. The “Litterio Villari” archeological group, which has always supported the archeologists working in central Sicily, will also be present at the conference.

Logo of the Sacred Landscape Sicily project, which can be followed on Instagram and Facebook

For the italian version click here.

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