The Bible and Christianity are powerful. But the Baroque architecture found throughout Ragusa, Sicily and the Val di Noto is something of a higher realm. In fact, it’s hard to turn a corner and not discover some fabulous building decorated with ornate figurines, standing tall and majestic overhead. Much of the Val di Noto is a variety of old medieval buildings and “recent” Spanish Baroque flamboyance. Many buildings and churches were destroyed due to a powerful earthquake in 1693. Luckily, thanks to the dominant Spanish Empire at the time, much of the Val di Noto was reconstructed with the architectural gems we find today.
When on holiday in Ragusa be sure to check out these 6 local churches, all restored in the Baroque style of the mid 1700’s. Only then will you believe how devastating the 1693 earthquake actually was.
The Cathedral of San Giovanni
The center of religious power of “new” Ragusa (considered “upper Ragusa” by the locals) this cathedral was constructed over various periods between 1706 and 1760. The Baroque facade, asymmetric in its design, looks out over the square with the same name: Upper Ragusa’s central piazza.
The Duomo of San Giorgio
Possibly the most recognized church in Ragusa Ibla (thanks in part to the Montalbano television series) the original church was completely destroyed by the 1693 earthquake. Positioned easterly with respect to the piazza, the cupola stands at 43m and the facade is separated in three imposing, jutting cornices. It is suggestively illuminated at night and is often the subject for many amateur photographers and artists.
The Church of San Giuseppe (Benedictine)
This church was constructed in 1590 with its beautiful Baroque facade having been designed years later (similar to San Giorgio). A practicing Benedictine convent, the nuns today are still active in ritual and prayer. Inside, the church’s dome contains beautiful affrescos of Sant Benedict painted in the the late 16th C. The church’s museum is a testimony to Benedictine life with a vast array of sacred documents and historical books.
The Church of San Giacomo the Apostle
Within the confines of the Ibla gardens stands this one-nave church. Originally a three-nave structure dating back to the 13th C., that building fell to ruin in 1693. Today you can still see the remains of the original naves in the garden beside the church.
Santa Maria dell’Itria
Hidden just under the old Spanish Cancelleria rests this beautiful building. Situated in the old Jewish quarter of Ibla, it is said to have belonged to the Knights of Malta. With its bell-tower in Caltagirone ceramic, this church served as a lodging for pilgrims. Eventually annexing a local building, it became a refuge for the town’s sick and afflicted.
Church of San Rocco
Legend says the church was constructed after the death of the saint in 1327. Although there are no documents attesting to this fact, it is known to have existed in the early 1500s. Although it suffered damage during the famous earthquake of 1693, it was one of the few churches in Ibla to not be completely destroyed. It is also the doorway to the beautiful hike along the Cava della Misericordia by way of the Valle dei Mulini.