The imposing Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri sits at one side of the Piazza Marina, today home to the administrative offices of the University of Palermo, was once a fortified private home.
The palace was built in 1307 as the private home of the Chiaramonte family. The most notable interior decorations, however, were added later in the 14th century. In particular, the Grand Hall has a huge painted wooden ceiling. The scenes captured by artists include some Biblical stories, some from mythology, and others.
After the palace was no longer a private home, it was used as a prison by the Spanish Inquisition (there are small cells with anguished graffiti on the walls), and later as Palermo’s courthouse. Today, part of the palace is where the city’s university is headquartered, though much of the building is also a popular attraction for visitors.
In addition to the gruesome sights in the palace related to the Spanish Inquisition, there is also an art collection worth seeing. The best-known piece in the collection is a painting called, “La Vucciria,” after the bustling Palermo market, by Sicilian painter Renato Guttuso.