Graffiti written by witch discovered in ancient Palermo prison
(ANSA) - Women accused of witchcraft by the Inquisition more than four centuries ago left behind
an impressive series of graffiti in a Palermo prison as they waited to be burned at the stake, archeologists announced on Tuesday.
The latest graffiti were uncovered during renovation work in the ancient complex of the Steri, the Palermo headquarters of the dreaded Inquisition, the Catholic Church's judiciary tasked with stamping out heresy.
From 1601 till 1782, the Inquisition tortured and tried countless prisoners from its still largely mysterious headquarters in the Steri. Anyone dragged there was unlikely to emerge alive as the
Inquisition was notoriously ruthless with suspected heretics, soothsayers, blasphemers and friends of the Devil.
"In fact, many of the victims were simply intellectuals or artists whom the Church considered a threat to its power," explained the head of restorers Domenico Policarpi. Work to convert the complex into a museum began last year thanks to an-eight-million-euro fund partly provided by Palermo University in exchange for space for the dean's offices.
In 1782 Viceroy Domenico Caracciolo ordered all the Inquisition's documents burned but historians say that the hundreds of graffiti which still decorate many of the former cells may shed some light on the goings-on of the Steri. The latest inscriptions were found on the first floor as workers scraped off a coating of white plaster obviously meant to cover up the curses and insults the hapless 'witches' left for the inquisitors.
"The Steri doesn't cease to amaze and the University pledges to do its utmost to do all it can to preserve its extraordinary legacy," said Dean Giuseppe Silvestri.
Previously unveiled graffitis in another section of the prison complex offer a variegated display of images and writings: maps of Sicily, religious paintings, appeals for aid or forgiveness, poems and drawings.