Built in the early fourteenth century the palace was the great mansion of Manfredi Chiaramonte, Count of Modica immense and powerful fiefdom (called "Regnum in the Kingdom" for its privileges).

From the beginning of the fifteenth century to 1517 was the residence of the Spanish viceroy, then headquarters of the Royal Customs and, from 1600 to 1782, housed the court of the Inquisition.

Restored in the fifties by the architect Carlo Scarpa and other architects of Palermo, is now home to the Rector of the University of Palermo.

The Steri prison was for nearly two centuries the place where the Tribunal of the Inquisition, interrogated, tortured and killed thousands of men and women among them Jews, friars, nuns, innovators, libertarians, and enemies of orthodoxy or simple poor. The remains of valuable graffiti written by prisoners are today the only evidence of the suffering endured under the institution.


During restoration Scholars have found a secret passage that led directly to the room from the cells Inquisitor. Another significant finding concerns the existence of a monumental building underground seven meters long with a massive coverage with vaults, marked by massive ribs. The construction of this structure dates from the first quarter of the fourteenth century