The bell tower of Santa Caterina

Up there where you couldn’t see the sky: a prison in the bell tower of the church of Santa Caterina in Finalborgo

Within the medieval bell tower of the church of Santa Caterina in Finalborgo it is still possible to relive the terrible experience of those who were imprisoned in the punishment cells that from 1865 for a century occupied the spaces of the Dominican monastery.

The massive bell tower with three orders of mullioned windows, separated by hanging arches, ends with a slender octagonal pinnacle with cor-ten steel angular spires realised in 1997 as a substitute for the original one that had collapsed during the 1887 earthquake.

MORE INFORMATION – The bell tower of Santa Caterina

On the side facing the square, in a blocked window of the bell tower, one of the most ancient examples, that we currently know about, of a clock tower came to light with a painted clock face that is dated to 1561. The clock presented a rotation of the hands in an anti-clockwise direction since in our hemisphere the shadow of the sundials marked the time by moving from west to east, the opposite of the course of the sun.

Within the bell tower there are still the punishment cells of the 19th century prison.

The project that was directed by the Genoese military engineering corps of the Reign of Italy in 1864 that had planned a radical reconstruction of the church, of the monastic areas and of the contiguous oratory of San Biagio and Santa Caterina with their transformation into a prison.

In the scarce space of the five-floored bell tower four cells were obtained on the first floor and two cells in the other floors for a total of twelve punishment cells.

Every cell measured around 170 x 90 cm and there were no windows; light and air only passed through a peephole that was closed by grating and positioned above the door.

Inside the cell there was a stone slab that was the bed and at the bottom of it there are still the rings for the chains.

On the walls and on the doors of the cells the prisoners would sketch graffiti and write names, dates, sentences or simple lines to keep track of time. This is an extremely suggestive place as the preservation of the original state of this part of the prison still dramatically expresses the prisoners suffering.

Along with murderers and common criminals the prison of Finalborgo hosted a large number of political prisoners, progressive figures hostile to the politics of the Reign of Italy or, subsequently, antifascists and prisoners arrested during the Second World War.

A moving testimony of the Italian political life in the last years of the 19th century is passed on by the charcoal writings, by the socialist anarchists arrested during the upheavals in Milan, upheavals that were repressed by general Bava Beccaris in 1898, that came to light on the inner walls of the church where during the prison phase it had been transformed into a dormitory.

In order to visit the bell tower please refer to the Archaeological Museum of Finale.



How to reach the site

The Bell Tower is part of Santa Caterina complex in Finalborgo and can be reached by the Archeological Museum.


Entrance ticket with guided visit: 2€

Visit start:  10.00 a.m. – 10.30 a.m. – 11.00 a.m. – 11.30 a.m.

Group guided visit on request

Bookings for tours are available as part of the “Open door Open art” Project endorsed by MUDIF.


Museo Archeologico del Finale


tel: +39.019.690020

Calendar of visits

Temporarily Chiuso

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