Engel & Völkers Licence Partner Trapani > Blog > The Baglio: architectural emblem of Sicilian feudalism

The Baglio: architectural emblem of Sicilian feudalism

Rural tourism or holidaysare almost always associated with outdoor activities, contact with nature,participation in agricultural work or tastings of typical products.

Too often,perhaps another aspect of rural culture is neglected: the rural architecture,which is intrinsically linked to the history and traditions of the rural world.

Unfortunately, becauseof the development of the Italian countryside, many buildings were abandoned orincorporated into the urban fabric.

One of thegreatest expressions of rural Sicilian architecture is represented by the baglio.

The etymology ofthe word baglio, (Italian translation of the Sicilian word bagghiu),appears uncertain and can be traced back to various hypotheses and origins.

In Sicily, thisterm defines a fortified building or farm with a large courtyard, and in morerecent times only the internal courtyard of the farms, while in the province ofTrapani it leads more to the meaning of "fort" but without assumingthe features of a castle.

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The birth of the bagliodates back to the period of colonization of large areas of Sicily (thenabandoned and uncultivated) by the local barons, between 1500 and 1700.

 Spain, which at the time dominated Sicily,requiring large quantities of cereals, had granted a "repopulationlicense" (the Licentia populandi), through which the Siciliannobles came to found real villages in the surroundings of the original building(the so-called foundation cities).

Expression of a feudalorganization, the baglio was a large farm equipped with numerous lodgings,warehouses, stables and warehouses for tools, crops and for the owner'scarriages. This is why the landowners and numerous peasants called to workduring the year lived there for short or long periods.

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The typicallayout of the baglio included a construction closed on the outside and with allthe openings facing inside the courtyard. Generally, the part of the buildingfor residential purposes had one or more high floors in which the owner pleasantlyspent the months of the hot Sicilian summer with his family, and whose prestigewas emphasized by the luxury of the furniture. The lower floors, on the otherhand, were filled by peasants housing and warehouses.

Furthermore, inthe baglio there was often a rural church or chapel, placed outside orinside the complex, to allow the populations of the neighboring funds toparticipate in religious functions, and which favored its centralization andthe character of a pole of convergence.

The perimeterwalls, without openings, allowed a defense against possible enemy assaults,while a large entrance door, the only passage to and from the outside, alsoallowed carriages and transport wagons to access the courtyard.

Generally, the baglioarose near water sources, in the highest part of the fiefdom, so as to controlthe entire extension of land. They were always built with stone masonry inplace with common mortar and paving in stone slabs (called balatuni) orin pebbles. The roofs were usually made with a wooden supporting structure,with "scissors" trusses, beams, strips, terracotta bricks or tilesonly.

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There are two differenttypes of baglio: the “bagli padronali” and the “baglicontadini”.

The first type isquadrangular in shape with the courtyard closed on all sides, communicating tothe outside through a large wooden door whose nailing reproduces orientaldesigns; this was often inserted in a portal with a full lowered arch, equippedwith a wrought iron rose window, and sometimes surmounted by a balcony.

The owner zonewas divided from the peasant’s zone by an internal wall with a communicatingdoor.

Over time, otherhouses were built around the baglio, forming real villages.

The second type,on the other hand, arose later, at the end of the 1800s, built by thesharecroppers who privately managed the land granted by the lord.

Unlike the firsttype, the structure has a rectangular shape and less thick walls, with smalland high windows and slits in the walls. The interior consisted of a stable, acellar, a barn, and a room for sleeping and eating. All internal rooms were communicating,and access was from the only large gate located in the stable.

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Even today inSicily, in the areas traditionally of agricultural use, it is possible to meetthese buildings of considerable volume and extension, mostly abandoned butsometimes restored and reused as agritourism farms, accommodation facilities,museums or, by some enthusiasts even, purchased and used simply for residentialpurposes.

In any case, forthose who really want to know Sicilian culture and history, they are a must.

Sicilian "Bagli" and "Casali"

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