The history of Polizzi Generosa dates back to very ancient times. Historians have discussed, at length, about its beginnings. Some claim that it was the “Sicilian” Athens mentioned by Diodorus. Others write that the name came from the Palic Gods, sons of Thalia, a nymph who gave her name to a water spring, called Naftolia.
Many others believe that the town was founded by the survivors of Palica, the town destroyed by Ducetius. The discovery of the statue of Isis, unfortunately lost, made some historians think that the name could have meant the “town of Isis.”
Many Punic and Roman findings have been unearthed in Polizzi and in the surrounding areas; some dating back to the 4th and 3rd centuriesB.C. The present-day town developed during the Byzantine period, when it was given the name of Basileopolis (the City of the King.)
During the Norman domination, around 1080, Roger, the Normand, strengthened the fortress and the castle; his niece, Countess Adelaida, Patroness of Polizzi, energized the town with new life. Polizzi was always a town-state, except for a very short period of time, and its inhabitants always defended their independence.
Frederick II gave the town the title of“Generosa” (Generous), which is part of its official name to this day. The town had its own form of
government and its Statutes which, even today, are still admired for their fairness. Polizzi attracted even monarchs, such as Queen Elisabetta
d’Aragona; her son, Ludovico, King of Trinacria; Queen Mary, wife of Martino, the Young; his wife, Queen of Navarra and Vicegerent of the Kingdom of Sicily, and Emperor Charles V, who was a guest of Gian Bartolo Farina in 1535, and who established the Senate of Polizzi.
The existence of many noble families and the strong presence of Religious Orders enriched the townwith churches, monasteries and works of art. The town’s most important period was the Renaissance for the blossoming of its artistic creativity, specificallyLigurian, Tuscan and Lombard art, which was strongly favored by the aristocracy. Cultural life was also very flourishing in Polizzi. The first public school
opened in 1428. In 1572, the Jesuits opened the first elementary school, and later on, amore advanced school of grammar, rethoric, philosophy and mathematics.
Of great renown is also the Lancia di Brolo Municipal Library with more than 35.000 volumes, precious incunabula, and 730 volumes dating back to the 15th century.
The decline of Polizzi began when the plague stroke the town at the end of the 16th century. What followed was a period of strife between the Nobility and the Bourgeoisie Class, the so-called “Civilians” who were trying to be elected to public offices. Polizzi was at the avant-garde for social works and public health. Since the Middle Ages, the town had hospitals, and it is one of the first towns in Sicily where Luigi Rampolla, an engineer, built an electric plant and produced electricity, as early as1901, at a time when, even large cities, hadstill gas lamps.