CATANIA

Church of San Benedetto

Church of San Benedetto belongs to the convent of the same name, still inhabited today by cloistered nuns.

The monastery was built here around 1355 and included only what is today the large abbey.

The present small abbey, instead, was the monastery of St. Magdalena and was annexed to the Benedictine complex in 1702, after the earthquake of 1693.

The church was built between 1704 and 1713 and frescoed between 1726 and 1729 by the Messina painter Giovanni Tuccari, who was named “lightning of painting” for the speed of his work.

Three different themes can be identified in the vault:

in the center are painted the triumph of St. Benedict, his viaticum and his ascension into Heaven;

the lunettes above the windows traditionally depict the theological and cardinal virtues;

the squares between the windows depict episodes from the life of the Saint of Norcia, with reference to his being patron saint of Europe.

Episodes of conversion of members of Roman families and dialogue with the barbarian nobility are reproduced.

The walls of the church are decorated with two large frescoes depicting the martyrdom of St. Placido and St. Agatha (work of unknown persons) and several paintings dating back to the 19th century.

Among these, it is worth mentioning the “San Benedetto” by Michele Rapisardi, on the right of the altar.

Hardly altered during the Second World War, the oil was restored by Prof. Giovanni Nicolosi.

Entering through the large wooden door, on the left, you can see “San Michele, l’Arcangelo Gabriele e Tobiolo“, by Matteo Desiderato, an artist of the Sicilian 19th century.

With the passage from the baroque system to the neoclassical one, Tuccari’s frescoes, bright, full of colours and perspective games, are far from the new style, more sober and less dynamic.

For this reason, in the 19th century, the frescoes were plastered white.

Today we admire Tuccari’s works because a bomb, during the Second World War, in 1943, hit the vault of St. Benedict creating a gash in the plaster and the partial resurfacing of the frescoes below.

The restoration

The restoration was entrusted to the direction of the architect Armando Dillon, who directed the work in 1948, restoring the interior frescoes to their original splendour.

The only fresco that has not been restored is the one depicting the martyrdom of St. Placidus, which is in fact in a softer colour than the others.

In the same fresco, traces of the plaster that covered the walls can still be clearly identified.

Opposite the altar, in Sicilian jasper, there is the chancel, in gilded wood. Here, the nuns gather at evening vespers for prayer and choirs.

The nuns, in order to modulate the voices, are arranged on two levels: on the lower floor sit the older nuns, on the upper floor the younger ones.