Sedil Dominova is one of the many tourist attractions of Sorrento and a symbol of the history of the locals. A must for tourists!
It is located in the city centre, Via Cesareo, one of the parallels of the main street, Corso Italia, and looks out into Largo so-called “schizzariello” (in English splash) because of the presence of a fountain.
Sedil Dominova was the seat of part of the Sorrento aristocracy (specifically, the patrician families Vulcano, Mastrogiudice, Sersale, Capace, Nobilione, Molisano, Donnorso, Boccia, Orefice, Marziale, Cortese, Teodoro, Carlino, Spasiano), but since 1877 the building hosts an association created to guarantee first forms of mutualism for workers. On the palace’s front, there is in fact a plaque: “Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso”, the Workers’ Mutual Aid Society.
Sedil Dominova charatheristics
Sedil Dominova changed very little over time. It still maintains its fifteenth-century structure.
The building has two sides open to the outside through large round arches in piperno and archaic capitals. The dome, built afterwards, is covered with the “riggiole”, a typical majolica tile. The artist Rigiolario Chiajese from Naples carried out the work in the 18th century. The external walls and the allegorical statues, such as angels, cherubs and crowns, are frescoed with motifs from the school of the Sorrento painter Carlo Amalfi. All the paintings date back to the eighteenth century.
On the top of the external corner, there is another distinctive element: the famous “lozenges” of Sorrento, representing the coat of arms of the city, and the Angevin lilies, representing the house of France.
In the entire region, Sedil Dominova is the last visible testimony of the typical “Palazzo del Sedile”, ancient location for the Council of the Aristocracy and heart of the administrative city’s life.
Since 1877, it has been the headquarters of the Workers’ Mutual Aid Society of Sorrento, a trade union. Until the post-WWII, among the association’s members, there were many inlay artisan, workers in the sector of the orange and lemon cultivation, sailors and tourism’s workers. This tells us a lot about the working class in Sorrento at the end of the 1800s and makes us understand which kind of job was most popular at the time.
Here, between the late 1800s and the early 1900s, fundamental choices were made for the future of the whole Sorrento working classes.
Moreover, in the same period, the American politician and layer William Waldorf Astor attended the place and donated 25 thousand francs during his long stay at the Amalfi Coast. There is a plaque located in the internal hall of the building that certifies the generous gesture. Written in Latin by the scholar Enrico Cocchia, the plaque says, “Commendator William Waldorf Astor, our worthy partner, donated the large sum of 25,000 francs to the old Treasury of this workers’ association. For such munificent offer, the Society of Workers affixes a plate for his perpetual memory, remembering with it the date of the great gift received on April 27, 1909, for which this fellowship has made a fifty years step forward”. The plaque remains and the Astor donation is one of the most recurring events in the Sorrento fellow’s tales.
Before the WWI, the association went through a crisis. That was not the last difficult moment it had to face. Great Depression, unemployment and the bankruptcy of Banca Astarita were obstacles too. In the end, the Workers’ Mutual Aid Society of Sorrento increasingly felt the pressure of the fascist regime, until a verbal eviction notice, luckily avoided in 1938.
Until the ‘60s, The Workers’ Mutual Aid Society of Sorrento was able to keep his historical role and maintained his mutualistic purposes with the provision of subsidies and pensions.