Nestled in the picturesque landscape of Sicily, the town of Noto is renowned for its stunning Baroque architecture. Among its most remarkable features are its exquisite churches which stand as magnificent testaments to the artistic and cultural heritage of the region.
In this article, we will explore the captivating history and architectural marvels of the Noto churches.
The Cathedral of San Nicolò is a masterpiece of Sicilian late Baroque architecture. It is an imposing and majestic building that dominates the main square of Noto. The cathedral is an important religious and cultural center and represents one of the most important symbols of the city.
Noto Cathedral is the most important religious building in Noto, Sicily. It was built between 1693 and 1703 in late Baroque style and is located in the main square of the city.
The façade of the cathedral is characterized by two bell towers, a monumental staircase and a central portal surmounted by a pediment. The interior of the cathedral is a Latin cross plan and houses a rich decorative apparatus, including paintings, frescoes and sculptures.
The church was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1848 and 1996, but it was restored and reopened to worship in 2007. Today it is one of the most important symbols of Noto and Sicily.
Church of San Domenico
The Church of San Domenico is a Baroque church built in Sicily in the 17th century. It is considered one of the masterpieces of Baroque architecture in the region and houses a vast artistic heritage, including paintings, frescoes and sculptures.
The church was built by the architect Rosario Gagliardi between 1703 and 1727.
The facade is characterized by two superimposed orders of columns, the first Doric and the second Ionic, and is punctuated by an alternation of niches.
The central part, strongly projecting and characterized by concave and convex lines, preceded by the access staircase, which emphasizes the vertical development and the scenic effect of the building, falls within the full local Baroque language, of which Gagliardi was one of the main protagonists.
The use of free columns in the front is a characteristic element of his language, and it also occurs in other works of his, such as the Church of S. Carlo Borromeo and the Cathedral of San Nicolò. It is an element that serves to enhance the chiaroscuro and the plastic effect of the ensemble.
The interior of the church is well preserved and is structured on a plan of an elongated Greek cross, crowned by five domes richly decorated with stuccoes.
Church of Santa Chiara
The Church of Santa Chiara was designed by the architect Rosario Gagliardi in 1730 and completed in 1758.
The exterior of the church is characterized by two imposing Tuscan columns, surmounted by a sort of cup in iblean stone, and the bell tower, decorated at the corners by two capitals.
The interior of the church is inspired by the model of Roman churches with an elliptical shape. It is rich in decorations, putti and stuccoes, which represent one of the best exercises in Baroque style that we can find in Sicily.
The entrance vestibule is characterized by a wooden ceiling, where the painting depicting “L’Assunzione di Maria” is located, while higher up we find the wooden choir, painted and decorated with inlays.
In the altars of the right nave we find the painting dedicated to Santa Chiara; immediately next to it is the nineteenth-century altarpiece depicting Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, works by the Palermo painter Salvatore Lo Forte. In the altars on the left there is one of the most important works in the province of Syracuse: the statue of the “Madonna col Bambino”, dating back to the 16th century, and coming from ancient Noto.
The main altar represents a hymn to Sicilian Baroque: a finely carved battlement in bas-relief and made in polychrome stucco. In this context we find canvases depicting ”L’Assunzione della Vergine” from the 18th century.
Church of Montevergine
The Church of Montevergini is a Baroque church located in Noto, Sicily. It was designed by the architect Vincenzo Sinatra and built between 1747 and 1762.
The façade of the church is characterized by a concave shape in the central part, which creates a scenic backdrop of great visual impact. The façade is divided into two orders of pilasters surmounted by Doric capitals in the lower order and Ionic capitals in the upper order. It ends with a crowning balustrade and two bell towers. The portal in the center of the first order is framed by pilasters with Corinthian capitals that support a straight pediment. In the center of the second order there is a window surmounted by a triangular pediment.
The interior of the church is richly decorated with stuccoes, frescoes and Baroque altars in polychrome marble. The main altar is surmounted by a temple ciborium and two altarpieces depicting “La Deposizione” and “Lo Sposalizio della Vergine”, by Costantino Cerasi. The vault of the nave was also decorated by Costantino Cerasi, between 1762 and 1772, with a fresco depicting “La Gloria degli Ordini Benedettini”. The original tiled floor of the church, which has been preserved to this day, gives a polychrome and elegant effect to the environment.
Church of San Francesco all’Immacolata
The Church of San Francesco all’Immacolata is located at the top of a scenic three-flight staircase on Corso Vittorio Emanuele in the central part of the city. It was built between 1704 and 1750 by Rosario Gagliardi and Vincenzo Sinatra and is one of the most beautiful churches in Noto.
The façade is divided into two orders of pilasters with Corinthian capitals and is crowned by a pediment. In the center, an elegant portal, framed by Baroque columns with leafy motifs carved into the stone, is surmounted by a broken pediment with a richly decorated cornice, which leaves space for an aedicule in the form of a niche. On either side, two niches framed by small columns supporting arched pediments, emphasize the decorative and plastic character of the whole.
The scenic effect and the vertical development of the building are amplified by the presence of the three-flight access staircase and the base on which the columns and pilasters of the façade rest.
Inside the church, with a single nave and a Latin cross, there are 18th-century paintings and funerary monuments, some of which are dedicated to the princes of Villadorata, Mariano Nicolaci and Lorenzo, and to the Marquis Giuseppe Trigona and his wife.
In the apse there is a gilded wooden statue of the Immaculate Virgin, dating back to 1504 and attributed to Antonio Monachello, inserted in the context of a rich decorative apparatus in wood and stucco with Baroque forms.
Two of the side chapels, dedicated respectively to St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua, are the work of the stucco artist Giuseppe Gianforma, contemporary of Serpotta, designed by Vincenzo Sinatra. They are characterized by decorative elements typical of Baroque and Rococo.
The square in front of the former San Francesco convent houses a marble statue of the Immaculate Virgin, from the late 18th century.
Church of San Carlo al Corso
The Church of San Carlo al Corso is a masterpiece of late Baroque architecture in Noto, Sicily. It was designed by Rosario Gagliardi in 1730 and has a striking façade characterised by concave and convex lines and a rich decorative apparatus. Inside, you can admire a sumptuous environment decorated with 18th-century frescoes and stuccoes.
The façade of the Church of San Carlo Borromeo has a vertical development and is divided into three orders of columns, with Doric capitals in the lower order, Ionic capitals in the central order and Corinthian capitals in the upper order. The presence of richly decorated friezes and cornices, which run above the free columns, alternating with niches that imitate openings, create a plastic effect and a decorative richness with a strong visual impact.
The interior of the Church of San Carlo Borromeo is divided into three naves arranged in a Latin cross and covered with barrel vaults, decorated with polychrome stuccoes and frescoes attributed to the painter Costantino Cerasi, depicting biblical episodes and religious iconography. On the right side of the central nave is a beautiful wooden pulpit in the form of a canopy supported by a griffin, a symbol of the Jesuit Order.
The San Carlo’s Church served as the Cathedral of Noto for several years, during which time the latter was undergoing reconstruction after a collapse in 1996.
Church of Santissimo Salvatore
The Basilica of the Most Holy Savior is a Baroque-Neoclassical church located in Noto, Sicily. I
t was built between 1767 and 1787 at the behest of the Mother Abbess Sister Maria Isabella Rau della Ferla. The building was designed by the architect Andrea Gigante and completed by the canon D. Antonio Mazza.
The facade of the basilica is divided into two orders superimposed by a cornice. Above the entrance portal stands a grille, a curved grate that allowed the cloistered nuns to look without being seen.
The interior decorations of the church are a remarkable testimony to the Sicilian cultural transition period between late Baroque and Neoclassicism. Worthy of note are certainly the frescoes on the ceiling and the paintings that are found on the side altars.
On the right side there are: “L’adorazione dei Magi”, attributed to Giuseppe Patania and “La Crocifissione” attributed to Giuseppe Velasco. On the left side, on the other hand, there are: “La presentazione dei Santi Mauro e Placido a San Benedetto”, signed by Giuseppe Velasco and “La Madonna del Rosario” attributed to the same painter.
Other important works of art are: a wooden sculpture of the “Madonna col Bambino” and the silver urn that houses the relics of S. Restituto Martire.
Located to the left of the Cathedral of Noto, from the raised square in front of the Basilica of San Salvatore, you have a privileged view of many of the Baroque wonders of the historic center. It is also possible to photograph the Cathedral of Noto from a unique angle.
Noto’s churches are not only architectural marvels but also bear witness to the town’s rich cultural heritage. With their magnificent facades, intricate interiors, and priceless artworks, these churches captivate visitors and offer glimpses into a bygone era.
Exploring the Noto churches is an unforgettable experience, allowing one to delve into the beauty of Sicilian Baroque architecture while immersing themselves in the town’s profound historical and cultural significance.