A powerful earthquake hit the Belice Valley in Italy in the night of January 14th to 15th 1968, completely destroying the town of Gibellina. Faced with the impossibility of reconstructing the village on the ruins - the city was rebuilt from scratch at an adjacent site nearer to the motorway - the city government decided to leave the scene as a witness of the tragedy, a lasting memory of the victims and the great suffering endured. Alberto Burri, an Italian arist was given the task to convert the town ruins into a monument. This undertaking began in 1985 and was completed in 1989.
Since the 1970s Burri experimented with cracks which he applied to his painitings or to more unorthodox materials like Cellotex. These works he called 'Cretti'. Il Grande Cretto (Great Cretto) in Gibellina is a blown-up version of these Cretti. The Cretto looks like a huge blanket of white cement unfolding in the Sicilian mountains. It has the shape of an irregular quadrangle of about 300 x 400 meters. Given the exposure South South-East and the vast proportions, it is clearly visible, even from afar. The surface consists of large blocks of concrete, roughly rectangular and broken by deep cracks and fissures. The blocks measure 10 to 20 meters on each side and are about 1.60 meters high. The grooves measure about 2-3 meters in width, and are walkable. The layout of the blocks and fissures essentially corresponds to the ancient road system, with its blocks and its streets.
The architects Cristina Diaz Moreno and Efren Garcia Grinda describe the Cretto like this: "The Cretto is above all an act of negotiation with the place and memory, which Burri gives to an alienated, uprooted population; by identifying the form of a process of restructuring of matter - in some ways similar to what happened at Gibellina - and the form of the destroyed town, he creates a mechanism to link events, configuration and time."