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The COSMED Project is a research study on the history of architecture centered on Sicily and part of southern Italy and on their ties throughout the Mediterranean over a long period spanning from the twelfth to the eighteenth century. Based on the assumption that the geographical centrality of this area in the Mediterranean made it a place where different cultures could meet and exchange experiences, the project investigated the impact that these contacts had in architecture. Setting aside study parameters linked to the history of styles, research focused on aspects related to construction. Giving priority to the history of construction necessarily involves the physical movement of prominent figures. In the early Modern Age, technical knowledge in architecture could not be learned from a distance or using alternative media (books, drawings, oral accounts, etc.). This methodological approach allowed us to postulate and then identify a network of transnational relations. The widespread notion in art literature that Sicily and southern Italy were places which, after a fertile medieval phase and before the rediscovery by the Grand Tour, were substantially relegated to a marginal condition has now been largely refuted by new discoveries through a critical reinterpretation of documents and constructions.
The research was carried out by adopting an interdisciplinary approach that combines conventional instruments of historical research (bibliographical, archival and iconographic research; direct observation of architectural works) with the most advanced survey, digital drawing and 3D modeling technologies available thanks to the diverse skills of the team of researchers involved in the project. The continuous exchange of views and effective collaboration between the researchers who shared their different skills allowed us to produce innovative scientific products both for their content and for the method used. In particular, these included: digital reconstructions, virtual models and dioramas of destroyed or partially modified architectural structures, publications of articles, essays, a series of monographs (open access), and a catalogue of a significant body of documents related to the history of construction in Sicily. Based on the latter, it was possible to build a glossary of specific terms relating to construction. These words, as well as the buildings, afford a glimpse of the richness of a civilization of building, of its prerogatives and of its mutual debts. Recovering and putting this intangible heritage of knowledge back into circulation is absolutely necessary for a proper understanding of our history.
To ensure the widespread dissemination of the study’s results, these have been collected on a dedicated website ( and in a permanent exhibition which opens the way to further developments and will have a positive impact on the territory and its heritage.
The research has proven to be particularly fruitful for the Modern Age, thanks to the possibility to match extant buildings with documents relating to their construction. In the field of stone masonry, the study revealed the existence of an unanticipated international network, demonstrating that the transmission of cultures in southern Europe is the phenomenon behind many architectural creations and sheds light on how human mobility made progress possible.
Another innovative aspect is linked to the experimentation of anti-seismic forms and techniques in the periods preceding the Enlightenment and in societies considered "backward". These aspects of technical evolution and of the intuitions of how structures behave mechanically which history has never contemplated were thoroughly explored in Sicily between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.