Catholic News - Catholic Telecommunications, a devision of Catholic Resources





Prison during Inquisition to become museum

A 17th-century prison in Sicily where hundreds were tortured during the Inquisition is being turned into a museum, featuring the anguished graffiti of those once tormented there.

The cells are entirely covered with prisoners' graffiti, their hopes and prayers and portraits of the saints, according to Domenico Policarpo, the architect in charge of the restoration.

"When the Inquisition was abolished in late 1700, all archives and documentation were destroyed. This graffiti is the only evidence we have. It does not have great artistic value, but it has human value, being the only evidence of a horrible demise," Policarpo said.

The University of Palermo is leading a $A13.96 million restoration of the site that is expected to take two years. The museum will comprise 16 cells on two floors of Palermo's Palazzo Steri, which is now university property.

The graffiti was discovered in 1906 by historian Giuseppe Pitre during the restoration of the Palazzo Steri.

The Inquisition was a systematic crackdown by Church officials to defend doctrinal orthodoxy.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II apologised for the sins of Catholics committed in the name of their faith, including abuses during the Inquisition. But in June, the Vatican issued a book that said torture, burning at the stake and other punishment for alleged heretics were not as widespread as commonly believed.

The Inquisition was waged in Sicily for almost 200 years, beginning in 1592 during Spanish rule over the island, Policarpo said.

Prison During Inquisition to Become Museum (Associated Press/ 10/8/04)

11 Aug 2004