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History Campofranco

Small farmhouse founded in 1573 by Baron Giovanni Del Campo under royal licence, Campofranco soon became a thriving village, then passed to the Lucchesi Palli who raised it to a principality The history of Campofranco began in 1549, when the Dei Campo family lost the barony of Mussomeli for a series of misadventures linked to the name of Cesare Lanza.

Baron Dei Campo remained in possession of only four fiefdoms, Lo Zubbio, Castelmauro, San Biagio and Fontana di Rose. The Campo gods then retired to private life, until Giovanni, the youngest of the family, decided to revive the fortunes of the family, populating one of his fiefdoms.

On 10 February 1573 Philip II of Spain, son of Charles V, under whose domination Sicily fell, sent royal letters with the license to build a farmhouse and call it Campofranco. In truth, a small farmhouse already existed in the Fontana di Rose feud, where there were solid huts and houses of shepherds and farmers, warehouses for storing cereals, a room for the secretion; the whole complex was defended by a tower, with overhanging and campieri. After a few months, in September, the baron stipulated <> with some citizens of Sutera, establishing the conditions for a good relationship of coexistence between lords and vassals. Taxes, franchises, facilitations, censuses, privileges, rights and duties were agreed upon.

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The life of the village began to unfold, therefore, similar to that of many other municipalities. Soon, attracted by gifts and privileges, peasants and artisans flocked from the nearby lands, and the new tiny village expanded with drinking houses, churches, ovens, mills and other essential infrastructures for the growth of the municipality. The Governor Don Giovanni Lo Burgio, to make the new village more welcoming, leveled the land in front of the castle, using it as a large square, while opposite, on a slight slope, stood the Mother Church, dedicated to San Giovanni Evangelista (Giovanni was the name of the feudal lords).

As if to surround the vast crown-shaped square, the first streets were traced, narrow and winding, with airy and large courtyards, where carters, craftsmen, overseers, citizens went about building houses, usually one-story. An architectural structure that conditioned the buildings of the town in the years to come. In the square, later known as della Matrice, the licenses (pertaining to the baron) were immediately given to open the slaughterhouse (or bocceria), the warehouse, the oven, the shops, while the water gushed and filled the drinking tanks, which it served men and animals. The first roads were via dell’Itria, via della Matrice, via delle Fosse, via delle Pile (where a trough and a wash house had been built), via dell’Ebreo, via dei Sarto… Via dei Mercato (then via Lunga and finally via Umberto) was still until recently the main street, which started from the square and almost in a single narrow and sinuous stretch reached the church and convent of San Francesco.

Here another district developed, with via Lume (due to the presence of a small church dedicated to the Madonna dei Lume) which led to a dirt road that climbed up to Sutera. The amenity of the place and the beauty of the landscape contributed to the progressive expansion of the population: in 1583 the first census of the population registered 117 fires, that is families, and 462 souls; a little over ten years later, in 1595, they had risen to 910. The Campos ruled the town until 1622, with the usual family quarrels, when the last baroness, Donna Eleonora, married very young Don Fabrizio Lucchesi Palli, of the family of Sciacca and Naro, who in 1625 obtained from Philip IV the title of prince of Campofranco. The Lucchesi descended from a noble Tuscan scion, Andrea, baron of the castle of Trepalli, near Lucca, who came to Sicily following Roger the Norman.

After the Norman conquest it received honors and favors in Sciacca, Naro and Palermo. The Lucchesi became among the richest barons in Sicily and their power increased further in the 18th and 19th centuries, culminating in the civil, religious and cultural power of Antonio, who promoted the Accademia della Galante Conversazione (1760); with Andrea, who became bishop of Girgenti (1755) and established the Lucchesiana Library; Giuseppe, who covered himself with glory on the battlefields (1756); and another Antonio, one of the protagonists of the political life of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, twice Lieutenant of the Kingdom. The numerous descendants of the Lucchesi princes, however, did not lead to decisive improvements in the growth of the town, mentioned in documents for the scarce contributions and legacies destined by the feudal lords for churches, altars, celebrations and for the poor. Over the centuries, feudalism, with its harassment and abuses, produced some cases of revolt, struck down with the gallows, whose emblem was erected at the gates of the towns; there were famines, bandits (the famous Peppe Termini), the plague and cholera (which in 1887 had an exceptional chronicler in Edmondo de Amicis). In modern times, with the Montecatini potash plant, the Cozzo Disi sulfur mine (now both closed) and other small industrial activities, Campofranco experienced a period of prosperity.