According to historian Roberta Carchiolo, the coffin and the “gisant”, today joined in a single sarcophagus, must have originally belonged to two different tombs. The lying figure of the deceased represents the daughter of “el Cerimoniós”: “Costanza Perez di Aragona e Navarra” (CARCHIOLO, 2015). While in fact, in my opinion, the coffin of the Constança’s sarcophagus was conceived to contain the remains of Maria of Sicily (ca. 1362 –1401), her daughter, when she was transferred from Lentini to Catania (Vid. SARCÒFAG de Maria de Sicília). Intuition shared with professor Laura Sciascia (2012) and Paola Vitolo, who exposed in the Convegno internazionale, Catania 2017, that “il coperchi è da riferire alla sepoltura di Costanza, la cassa doveva provenire invece dalla tomba di sua figlia Maria” (VITOLO, 2018).
When the tomb was opened, in late 1958, a lead tube was found inside, with a parchment confirming that the person buried was: “CONSTANTIA REGINA (…)”. Among the scattered bones and scraps of clothing was a skull in good condition (REALE, 1983). This disorder was probably due to the tomb recognition of 1605 and the subsequent transfer of the sarcophagus to the central apse of the cathedral. The monument where Constança was originally buried could have been placed near the crypt dedicated to the Catania’s patron saint, Saint Agate (VITOLO, 2018).
By 1597, the new wooden cathedral’s choir made by Scipione de Guido (1590) had already been installed, and the walls of the presbytery were decorated with the frescoes of Giovanni Battista Corradini (1572? –1659). That same year, the senate of Catania made a record confirming the authorization from Palermo to relocate the tombs of Frederic II/III, son of Pere el Gran, and queen Constança above the choir stalls. The authorization was signed by the viceroy D. Giovanni Ventimiglia (1559–1619). At that time, the regrouping of the remains of the family of king Frederic II/III (†1337) might have been brought together into his great “Sidamara” type paleochristian sarcophagus which is today located at the Madonna’s Chapel. Inside are the remains of the king himself, his son Giovanni di Randazzo (†1348), his grandson Lluís I (†1355), his great granddaughter Maria I (†1402) and her son, Pere or Frederic (†1400). This tomb was embedded in the right wall, just in front of the queen’s one. It is believed that in order to fix the lime and the stucco intended to cover them, both sarcophagi were hit and broken. Nothing was known how the hidden sarcophagi were, but in the Decachordum of 1642, Io. Baptista De Grossis (1605 –1666) assured that behind the epigraphic texts were the remains of the referred people.
Before the finding of the tombs, in an article published by 1918 in “Il Monserrato” magazine, the writer Gaetano Ardizzoni (1837–1924) predicted that what could be below the epigraphic texts of the pseudo tombs of the presbytery could not be anything remarkable because some fragments that he identified as pieces from the previous tombs were preserved in the museum Castello Ursino (ARDIZZONI, 1918).
In May 1952, in the course of an important restoration work to return the Norman cathedral to its original appearance, several holes were performed in the baroque protrusions of the royal tombs. On Sunday May 11, the newspaper Giornale dell’Isola of Catania published the news of the discovery of the two sarcophagi embedded in the wall of the main apse. In subsequent articles and publications, professor Guido Libertini urged to remove the tombs in order to study them.
From May 30, 1957 onwards, the cathedral was closed to continue the archaeological excavations and to install guides in the floor of the cathedral that would allow the extraction of the tombs from the thick Norman walls. Some months later the sarcophagi were lowered from the wall, and on October 1, 1958, with the presence of the authorities, the marble covers of the two tombs were raised and the interior analysed.
Since the discovery in 1952, the tomb of Constança has been mentioned y different scholars without being able to determine his paternity. Before it was taken off the wall, the archaeologist Guido Libertini (1888–1953) already described it as an important iconographic document of the mother of queen Maria and specified that it could be the work of the disciples of Tino da Camaino (1280–1336) or of some sculptors from northern Italy or from Sicily itself (LIBERTINI, 1952). On those same dates the duke Francesco Paternò Castello (1893–1982) erroneously concluded that, in view of the cushion’s shields, the gisant would have been ordered during the years that Blanca of Navarre (1385–1441), the second wife of Martí el Jove, acted as lieutenant of the island since the dead of her husband, from 1402 to 1413 (PATERNÒ CASTELLO, 1952).
The great medieval art scholar Stefano Bottari (1907–1967), in an extensive work on this grave concludes that it would be one of the few works belonging to the French gothic in Sicily. As a result of the close relationship between the bishopric of Catania and the Papal court of Avignon (BOTTARI, 1954).
Recently, professor Roberta Carchiolo has published that the Sicilian court was directly influenced by the Avignon Popes – Gregori XI- through the bishops of Catania Marziale and Elia di Vaudron, both natives from Llemotges, who were the ones who commissioned the reliquary bust of Saint Agate (1376) to Giovanni di Bartolo (Siena not. 1364 – 1404). Her discussion continues saying that we would be in front of a sculpture that could have come from a local workshop related with Goro di Gregorio (Siena, mid-fourteenth century), who worked in Messina, or with Nino Pisano (Pisa, not. 1343–1368 ca.) who during the 60s was working in the sanctuary of l’Annunziata in Trapani. She concludes saying that the little remains of this work does not allow us to name its author, only to say that it belongs to the artistic movements that spread throughout Tuscany, France, Naples and Sicily. She says that the delicacy contrasts with the hard design of the eyelids (CARCHIOLO, 2015). It is not known what the funerary monument dedicated to the queen would look like, but at the end of the 16th century it was located “presso l’altare da lei stessa istituito nell’area tra l’abside maggiore e quello meridionale, che era dedicato a sant’Agata, e che ancora oggi custodisce le reliquie della santa” (VITOLO, 2018).
Without any documentary basis, I would say, this monument would be the result of a commission imposed by Elionor of Sicily to her brother Frederic the Simple, husband of Constança, to further strengthen the ties between the Crown of Aragon and the insular kingdom of Sicily. The Cerimoniós, with his propaganda obsession, could have suggested this image where his lineage was reflected, according to the popular sepulchral works of that time. In any case, it is plausible that the cover of the tomb of Constança was the work of one of the workshops that, at the end of the 14th century, worked directly for the House of Barcelona.