Knowledge of Mining Civilization: Lercara Friddi

Knowledge of Mining Civilization - Lercara Friddi

Property included in the Register of Intangible Heritage of Sicily (REIS)

The recognition of the "Knowledge of Mining Civilization" asset - Book of Knowledge - concerns four territorial areas:

Province of Agrigento (data sheet with no. Prog. 7)

Province of Caltanissetta (technical sheet with program number 8)

Province of Enna (technical sheet with no. Progr. 11)

Municipality of Lercara Friddi (PA) (technical sheet with prog. No. 53)

The Good can be correlated with the Good "Holders of the Knowledge of the Mining Civilization" - Book of living human treasures concerning "The surfers" of the Province of Caltanissetta (form n. 10) and those of the province of Enna (form n. 12)


Technical sheet prepared by: Region of Sicily - Department of cultural heritage and Sicilian identity - CRicd: Regional center for inventory, cataloging and documentation and Sicilian regional film library 

Intangible Heritage Register
N. Prog. 53
Good: Knowledge of Mining Civilization
Book: REI - Book of knowledge
Approval date: 27-06-2006
Category: Knowledge
Province: Palermo
Lerch Friddi
Local denomination
Chronological News
The mining civilization in the town of Lercara Friddi developed following the discovery of a rich sulfur balloon vein in 1828, generating a process of economic and cultural development that also brought exploitation and human disasters.
From a development process that began in the first half of the nineteenth century, the crisis in the mining sector, which hit Sicily in the 60s, generated a profound employment emergency for the Palermo town.
Fulcrum of the history, especially economic, of Lercara Friddi is the discovery of the sulfur deposits, unique in the province of Palermo.
Underground workers, adult pickaxes or carusi, they supported inhuman rhythms characterized by shifts in a continuous cycle of eight hours locked up in narrow spaces, poorly lit and poorly ventilated, where humidity, high temperatures and impurities were harmful to their health.
The extraction of the mineral was done manually by pickaxers and the material was carried on the shoulder. From 1800 onwards an elevator was used for the transport that not only led the miners into the meanders of the cave but carried the sulfur to the surface which was then deposited in trolleys and led to processing.
The sulphurous mineral was melted to eliminate impurities and cast into molds. The continuation of knowledge in the sulfur processing technique led to a change of the same. Originally a type of oven called calcarone was used which released, however, harmful fumes not only for the cultures, but above all for the health of the workers. This method was soon prohibited and replaced by the Duvand machine which, however, failed to completely eliminate sulfur dioxide. Specifically, the limestone technique was developed in 1851 and was characterized by a net increase in yield. The construction of the limestone required little caution: it was enough to identify a portion of land well sheltered from the winds, not far from the entrances of wells and descents, possibly not in correspondence with the subsoil. On a circular area with a certain slope, the enclosure was traced, the external wall that identified the shape and characteristics of this sort of large oven without a cover. At the lowest point, there was the "death", that is the place of communication between the inside of the oven and the outside during all the melting phases. The construction had to be well done in order not to allow air to enter and cause the sulfur to ignite unintentionally.
The basic principle is that of a fusion fueled, except for a short initial phase, by the combustion of sulfur. The worker in charge of managing the limestone, "ardor", Provided the ignition with branches impregnated with sulfur that were inserted in characteristic points of the limestone itself, where a slow melting began. This could last even 20-30 days. Then followed the second phase, that of production, when, having pierced the door of death with a red-hot iron, the liquid mineral began to come out, pouring into truncated pyramid shapes with a capacity of 75 kg. The content of the shapes, solidified in "pani" (or "balate”In dialect), was stacked waiting to be transported to the place of sale or shipment.
Compare cards:
SHEET N.7 "Knowledge of Mining Civilization"
SHEET N.8 "Knowledge of Mining Civilization"
SHEET N.11 "Knowledge of Mining Civilization"
Addamus, Sebastian. 1989. Sulfur of Sicily. Palermo: Sellerio.
Caruso, Danilo and Corrado, Pirrello, edited by. 2008. Lercara Friddi mines. Lercara Friddi: Cartastampata cocio-cultural association.
Make it, Francesco. 1987. Sicily in the 50s: studies and testimonies. Naples: Guide.
Zanna, Gianfranco, edited by. 2010. Memory, beauty and future of the Sicilian sulfur mines. Palemo: Luxograph.
In 1874 a commission of inquiry was set up by the Minister of Industry to investigate the working conditions of the miners of Larcara Friddi. An alarming situation emerged from the investigation from the point of view of working conditions and the inhuman exploitation of minors who were bought by families, fueling a real slave trade.
The investigation concluded by proposing a substantial improvement in the living conditions of workers, a ban on hiring women and a ban on hiring workers under the age of twelve, proposing particular protections for those aged between twelve and twenty-one.
In this awareness campaign, the figure of the Lercarese doctor Alfonso Giordano stood out and managed to cure a parasitic anemic form from which the miners were affected: hookworms.
Author Card
Frances Maria Riccobene




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