The Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte: maiolica and fire
The Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte in Caltagirone is a waterfall of 142 steps, with each rise covered in beautiful, multi-colored maiolica.
Local craftsmen made the tiles in the mid-1950s especially for the staircase, which had been built in 1604. The tiles reflect the traditional styles and decorations of the town’s famous ceramic works, in chronological order from the 10th to the 20th century – hence Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia’s definition of “repertoire-staircase”.
The collection of tiles has a splendid effect. In Sciascia’s words,
While this staircase is always wonderful, it becomes phantasmagorical on Saint James’ night […]: an ingenious system of lights, protected by paper “shingles” with various decorations, make up an image along the staircase – usually a saint. It is an outstanding, incredible work, producing an admirable effect that lasts no longer than two hours.
Two hours of glowing beauty.