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Acireale The Town

 

The Cathedral is the result of a yard undergoing continuous evolution, which has its origin in 1500, and finishes the works in the mid of 1900. The façade, respecting the Sebastiano Ittar’s project, allows its executor Giovan Battista Filippo Basile, modulating together Romanesque-Gothic elements, to contain the old marble portal, built by Placido Blandamonte in 1667-72, where the sculptural group of the “Annunciation” remembers the Duomo was dedicated to it since its origins.

The internal part, Latin cross, has three naves, which ends in Chapels. In the central chapel, the lateral walls are frescoed with stories about Maria and Jesus’ life by the brothers Filocamo in 1710. On the top, there is the celebration of “Maria’s Glory among Angels and Saints” (1710). On the right side of the transept there is the St.Venera’s Chapel dedicated to the patron Saint of the city, where there are the relics. Here the commemoration of devoutness is shown in two lateral wall paintings “St. Venera’s sermon” and “St Venera’s martyrdom”, Antonio Filocamo’s work (1711), whereas the stucco decoration plays with the sacral symbols and profane symbols, as to insert in the prayer a propitiating practice. On the left side of the transept, it is offered an assay of Pietro Paolo Vasta’s skill in “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, the “Cana’s wedding”, “The Sacrifice of Isaac”, “Cain and Abel” and “St. Venera’s Glory” (1736-38). The two arms of the Latin cross plan create an octagonal dome, where the penditives are frescoed by P.P. Vasta showing four evangelists. The scenes
in the drum of the dome, representing four episodes of the Ancient Testament, are created by the painter Francesco Mancini (1895-1899).

The frescos of the nave vault are painted by Giuseppe Sciuti (1900-07), the reading of the scenes starts with the picture of “The Everlasting Father and the four Prophets” which irradiates the light, link of all scenes, follows with “Faith”, the “Annunciation”, “St. Venera” and ends with “the Chorus of the Virgins”. The lunettes of the nave arch are made by Francesco Patanè and Francesco Mancini. In 1843 Acireale became Diocese and its cathedral was decorated with a sundial thanks to the Danish astronomer Christian Peters.

 

Piazza del Duomo shows another religious building on the right side of the Cathedral, the St. Peter and Paul’s Basilica. The foundation of the Basilica dates back to the XVII century. Because of the damages caused by the earthquake of 1693, even this building had to be refurbished. In 1732 the cuspidate steeple with pinnacles was erected and then in 1741 P.P. Vasta presented the project of the actual prospect. The one-nave Basilica has a walling vault sustained by eight Corinthian columns, where there are Giacinto Platania’s pictures, “St. Alfio and the martyr brothers” and “St. Antonio Abate”; P.P. Vasta, “St. Andrea Avellino”; Alessandro Vasta, “Madonna and the Saints”; Matteo Ragonisi, “St. Peter and Paul” and “St. Lucia”. There are two hallowed sculptures which are “Christ at the Column” made in papier mậché by Paolo Ambra in the XVII century, and “dead Christ”.

In Piazza Duomo on the right side, we can see the Town Hall. Its prospect offers an example of
Catania baroque style, in the balconies, banisters made up of wrought iron, sustained by shelves sculptured by “lapidum incisores”; also the window-frames contribute to create a strong expressive charge. The first floor of the building was subjected to some changes as the doors and windows and the inclusion of a balustrated balcony between 1858 and 1859.

Going along Via Cavour, there are other civil buildings giving examples of baroque and here you can see the curtain on Piazza S. Domenico where the homonymous church, laid on a staircase made up of Etna black stone, rises in the glimmer of the Syracuse white stone, loosing its weight and becoming light as a fine worked lace.

On the adjacent via Marchese di San Giuliano, number 17, we find near a building projected in neoclassical style by the architect Mariano Panebianco, the Library and
Picture-gallery Zelantea (1700), where works of the Sicilian school are kept from the XVI to XX century. In the stairs open to public people, you can admire some works of artists such as the old Antonio Catalano, Mattia Preti, Corrado Giaquinto, Antonio Mancini, Giuseppe Sciuti, and P.P. Vasta, Giacinto Platania, Francesco Mancini Ardizzone, Saru Spina, Matteo Ragonisi, Michele La Spina and Francesco Patane from Acireale: do not forget the very beautiful Carriage belonged to the Senate in Acireale, dating back to 1784 and decorated by Alessandro Vasta. On the left side of Piazza S. Domenico there is another gentleman’s residence, belonging to the Musmeci, witness of the strong Baroque expressions of Acireale. The richness of the decorative apparatus, concentrates around the portals, in the window frames, banisters made up of wrought iron, on the shelves and frames in a play of black and white. In the civil architecture anthropomorfous tracts of masks and phytomorfous themes, concentrate on the never finished battle between Eros and Thanatos, where the man reads his daily fears and the capable “lapidum incisorem”, sustained by the rich commission, by a voice for a narration which swings between history and myth.

Set off towards one of the most beautiful churches of Acireale: St. Sebastiano. The Basilica, dedicated to the homonymous Saint, co-patron of the city, has a Latin cross plan with three naves. In the elegance of the internal part, the frescos on P.P. Vasta’s high altar have as subject some scenes about the life of the Saint. F. Mancini has painted the frescos of the dome and chapel of St. Sebastiano and Pietà. The Basilica dates back to the XVII century; after an earthquake in the year 1693 it was reinforced, refurbished and completed in 1742 with the construction of the parvis enclosed by a balustrade coloured by ten statues of G.B. Marino, on picture of P.P. Vasta. In the lateral naves we can admire the canvas “Coronation of the Madonna” and “The Glory of the Saints” by Matteo Ragonisi, “Madonna and the souls of the purgatory” by F. Patanè, “Madonna, St. Gaetano, St. Francesco, St. Lucia” by A. Vasta, “the Shroud of Turin” and “The Trinity” by P.P. Vasta, “The Saints Cosma and Damiano” and “St. Giovanni Battista” by Antonino Bonaccorsi. In the locals adjacent to the Basilica you can visit an interesting Museum of sacred art available for the public.

 

The Church of St. Antonio in Padua is the first Church, in Acireale, dedicated to St. Sebastiano. An example of great value is the gothic-Catalan portal dating back to 1400, whereas the church tower dates back to the seventeen century. The little church after the earthquake of 1693 had different changes. The internal part with a unique nave hold frescos by P.P. Vasta, Alessandro’s son and Michele Vecchio.

The Church of St. Camillo, almost hidden on the very travelled via Galatea, waits its visitors to show them a theatre of sacral scenes which play around the virtues of the female pictures belonging to the Ancient Testament and weaving a sweet hymn to the Blessed Virgin, P.P. Vasta’s works and helpers (A.Vasta and Vito D’Anna). The altar with its strong twisted columns shows the canvas which portrays the “The appearance of Madonna of Graces in St. Margherita”.