Imagine buying a house in the center of Palermo, renovating it and discovering a room from One Thousand and One Nights completely decorated in blue and gold and covered in mysterious Arabic writings. Welcome to the “Chamber of Wonders”.
It was 2003 and the family of Giuseppe Cadili and Valeria Giarrusso had just purchased an apartment on the third floor of a building in via Porta di Castro near the Ballarò market and its beautiful Church of Carmine. During the renovation works in 2013, under the old plaster, a blue paint appears and, piece by piece, a curious room with inscriptions, only apparently, in Arabic is revealed.
The couple, certain that they have brought to light something extraordinary, begin to show it to friends and historians, but no one seems to understand the meaning of the symbols, nor the origin of the room. Until, intrigued by the media coverage of the discovery, Vittorio Sgarbi visits the house and suggests that it could be a place created for meditation given the repetition of writings, like a “mantra”, on the walls.
This discovery literally changed our lives, since then we have opened our home to the world and began to act as spokespersons not only for this work of art but also for the history of Sicily linked to the many cultures that have influenced it.(Cadili Giarrusso family)
Finally, in 2015, the mystery of the meaning of the scriptures was revealed by two professors of the Institute of Oriental and Asian Languages of the University of Bonn, Sarjoun Karam and Sebastian Heine, who deciphered the phrases: “Praise be to God, nothing is like Him”.
Moreover, the X-ray analysis reveals that the room is supposed to have been decorated in the second half of the 19th century, a time when the palace was apparently owned by Stefano Sammartino, Duke of Montalbo, minister of finance and head of the Bourbon police who, due to the positions he held, had had direct relations with Arab-Andalusian culture and who may, therefore, have been the patron to use it as a “diplomatic” antechamber.
In 2018 a new double discovery. During a visit, a girl suggests the presence of a “musical” rhythm in the writings, so the musician Giuseppe Mazzamuto is called who, by overlaying a pentagram, reveals a palindrome melody (that can be read and played from left to right and vice-versa). Consequently, the Latin phrase “Recto lucet” (shines with rectitude) is also deciphered, to be read from left to right and intertwined with the Arabic phrase in an “embrace between East and West”, as Vittorio Sgarbi said during his second visit to the house.
Numerology, the idea that the world is “mathematical” and founded on perfect rules that ensure material and spiritual harmony, therefore seems to be the dominant theme of the Chamber of Wonders, where, for example, the number 7 is constantly repeated (7 are the lines on which the writings are arranged, 7 the lamps painted on each side of the vault, and 7 the openings of the room).
Even if mystery continues to surround the genesis of this place and, above all, who decorated it and for what purpose, what is certain is that its creator was a man of interesting vision, capable of translating both the Arabic and Latin culture into art.
But the “blue room” is not the only wonder kept inside the Cadili family’s apartment. His son Antonio Tancredi is, in fact, the youngest puppeteer in Italy of the traditional Sicilian “Teatro dei Pupi”, so much so that he got built a real puppet theater at home where he stages the fascinating stories of the Paladins of France with great scenic talent.
Thanks to his skill, in addition to having performed in various international events, he is the protagonist of the film Il Teorema della Felicità by Luca Fortino which led him to win the award for best child actor at the San Diego Movie Awards film festival.
And he is the real wonder of the house.
The home of the Cadili family is a true “museum” of Sicilian culture. Among the various works of art collected from various eras, they also chose to decorate all the floors with the typical majolica tiles which, in some rooms, form the story of the most important chapters in the island’s history.
Camera delle Meraviglie
via Porta di Castro 239
For guided tours, by reservation only: +39 338 3483372