A Brief History & Etymology of Corleone (from ItalyThisWay.com)...
Many assumptions were proposed about the origins of Corleone, especially in earlier
centuries. One of the most seductive was that why Corleone was the direct descendant
of the ancient city of “Schera”, mentioned even by Homer (IX century BC): “So god-
We also certainly know that there were three Phoenician cities, or Mozia Solunto and Palermo, and the others were of the Sicanians. So, with a justifiable interpretation, we can state with certainly that Schera was a Sicanian town. Later the Sicanians, the first inhabitants of Sicily after the Cyclops, scared by the terrible eruptions of Mount Etna, began to abandon the island's eastern side (...) and they settled in the western part where they built several fortress on the high. This people always pursued the hillsides, where they could find a fortified shelter against the Siculians (...) In this place certainly the Sicanians founded Schera [...]" (See Niccolò Maggiore, “Memorie sopra Schera città della Sicilia”, in “Giornale di scienze, lettere ed arti per la Sicilia” , Volume XI, Palermo, 1825: 85 ff.).
We observe that, in essence, Niccolò Maggiore hit the mark, because the most reliable
contemporary studies, after a series of thorough investigations that have involved
many local scholars, have concluded that presumably Schera was located near Corleone,
on a hill known as the “Montagna Vecchia” ["Old Mountain"], as appears from preliminary
studies by M.I. Gulletta (“Schera per una storia della ricerca”, Gibellina, 1992:
With regard to Corleone in the strict sense, it should go back to the Arab, Norman
and Swabian domination especially with Frederick II of Swabia (1194-
As Al Idrisi pointed out, the Arab greatly fortified the town; however, in 1072 the
Normans conquered Corleone a few years after being seized in Palermo with Count Roger
This situation of severe economic, political and social instability continued even under the Swabians, and indeed Muslims fiercely opposed to Frederick II, who trated them with great stricness, offering control of the town to a group of "Lombardi" ("part de hominibus Lombardiae" [some warriors from Lombardy]) led by Odo of Camerana. According to the contemporary studies, with the term "Lombardi" were over all designed some “Piedmontese peoples banished from Alexandria and its Province, as it is amply demonstrated by the sources, where they are named with the geographical indication of the place of origin" (See, Iris Mirazita, “Corleone: ultimo Medioevo”, Palermo, Officina di studi medievali, 2006: 21).
Although the town was commited to Corrado Peralta, it belonged to the State property and therefore Frederick II recognized Corleone directly dependent on the 'Empire ("qu[a]e est de mero demanio imperialis nostre curie " [belonging to the State property of our Imperial Curia]). The modern town has been organized between the fourteenth and sixteenth century, when it was enriched by the urban civic and specially religious buildings, such as churches, convents and numerous confraternities. Among these there were the Capuchins, who settled in Corleone in the second half of the sixteenth century. In the early seventeenth century, Corleone boasted the Mother Church and "other 36 old churches, convents and two female monasteries of the Benedictine rule" (See E. Novis Chavarria, Recensioni e schede a “Quattro saggi su Corleone nel Seicento”, in “Mediterranea”, 2005: 586).
Since the beginning of the fourteenth century began a long alliance with Palermo
in the War of the Sicilian Vespers against Anjou, to which then followed the wars
between feudal lords. In the warfare that broke out between the Chiaromonte and the
Palizzi, Corleone sided strongly with the Chiaromonte, Lords of Palermo, inextricably
linking its history to the capital city ( See I. Mirazita, “La presenza lombarda
nel tessuto sociale e urbano di Corleone”, in “El mon urbà a la Corona d'Aragò”,
Actas Vol. II, XVII, 2000, pp. 251-
In modern times, then we also record the rivalry between the great families of Corleone originated during the uprising of 1516, in which formed two parties headed by the noble families of the Maringo and the Firmaturi. The latter was one of the most families of Corleone, in the struggle for primacy in the town, and that it became even more powerful in the eighteenth century, coming "at the top of the native high society in the decades of the eighteenth century, on completation of a complex process of economic and social growth of the family "(See M.Verga, “La ‘Generosa’ Corleone. Materiali per una storia culturale della città”, in “Mediterranea”, 2006: 265). M. Verga states that "[...] a ruling class emerged (...) conscious and jealous of its history and its role as a governing class; in short, a portrait emerged of a nobility very aware of her role and of the 'dignity' of her city, wanting to call it "Corleone" (Lionheart), instead of the vernacular name of 'Coniglione' (‘large rabbit’) [...]."
M. Verga so approached the problem of etymology of Corleone, saying clearly that the old name "Coniglione" (large rabbit) was changed to "dignify" the town. In fact, about etymology, M. Pasqualino noted that Corleone derived from "Cunigghiuni" [in Sicilian dialect, "Big Rabbit"], noting however that Lo Giudice instead derived the name of the town from a Greek word: "[...]" ‘Cunigghiuni’, ‘Corleone’.
According to Lo Giudice Corleone derives from the Greek 'Kores' or 'Korìon', 'Koros', 'korion', or 'place, or castle of lions', and this view is supported by (…) its insignia, depicting a lion with the heart in its hands [...]" ( See M. Pasqualino, “Vocabolario siciliano etimologico”, Palermo, 1785: 384). G. Nania developed a very good considerations about the place name of Corleone, and he passed in review the various assumptions with a large amount of documents; in his final conclusions, he seems to favor the Arab origin of Corleone (Kar’ lùn'), probably preceded by a Roman noble "Corilius", from which "Corleone" would have arisen (See G. Nania, “Toponomastica e topografia storica delle valli del Belice e dello Iato”["Toponomastic and Historical Topography of the Valley of the Belice and Iato], Barbaro, Palermo, 1995: 47); also F. Maurici, and others accepted this assumption.
It is certain that "from the failure of the Byzantine and Muslim sources we save only a couple of certain names as Corleone and Castronovo. About the first place there is likely a sign of a Roman toponym (...) The etymology of Corleone may be the noble 'Corilius' [See, “Archivio storico siciliano”, 1994: 71 and footnote 309). G.B. Pellegrini discards certain assumptions [such as the derivation of Corleone from "Corylus” (hazel)], while he accepts the assumption that the name derives from ‘Corilius’, [which] is well known in some praedial names like 'Corigliano') taken from the noble ‘Corius / Corrius’ "(See G.B. Pellegrini," Italian toponymy ", 1990, p. 293).
In fact, as we have seen, the change from "Cunigghiuni" to “Corleone” was merely
a matter of prestige, and it is interesting to note the passage: “The ‘Corileon’
form (Italian ‘Corleone’) is relatively recent, and it is especially significant
that it appears in some Clauses granted to the town by Philip II (1527-
The nineteenth century was marked by the participation of prominent citizens in the
struggles of the “Risorgimento”, and by landing of Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-
In the twentieth century, the name of Corleone gave much publicity, because of issues
related to organized crime, a topic that appears in the trilogy that Francis Ford
Coppola [born 1939] ("The Godfather") dedicated to the saga of the Corleone family,
taken from a novel by Mario Puzo [1920-