RAGUSA

Santa Maria of Itria

The Church of Santa Maria of Itria was founded in the 14th century in the Jewish quarter called “Cartellone”.

As is evident from the presence of the octagonal crosses in the main door, in the organ choir and in the high altar, it was commissioned by the Knights of Malta of the Commenda di Modica and Randazzo, founded by the family Chiaramonte Counts of Modica. Initially, the church was dedicated to the Holy Bishop Giuliano the Hospitaller, for the role he played in hosting ( hospitium ) the wayfarers and the sick, but soon it was consecrated to Our Lady of Itria for the great  devotion  in the area.

The earthquake of 1693 did not particularly destroy the church but, despite this, it was subject to transformations and  extensions  in the fervor of reconstruction.

The Church

The  façade, in two orders with a separating cornice, was completed around 1740 in classicist style.

In the lower part there are  three portals, characterized by protruding frames with limestone decorations and floral motifs.

The central door, moreover, is surmounted by a large window.

The façade is flanked by a bell tower  with balustrade and surmounted by an octagonal drum with ribbed dome. The dome is characterized by a covering in polychrome terracotta, dated 1754, with representations, in Rococo style, of vases of flowers.

Inside, the church has a  basilica plan with three naves divided by two rows of limestone columns with Corinthian capitals with almond leaf decorations.

The capitals support 8 round arches. On the presbytery, an engraving on the triumphal arch recalls the date 1739, when the work was completed.

Particulars the five altars of the aisles, rich in sculptures and carvings, made between 1741 and 1758.

The oldest altars are those dedicated to St. Julian and the Crucifix, decorated with twisted columns  characterized by sculptures that recall garlands of flowers and fruits.

More elegant are the altars of 1758, dedicated to San Biagio and the Holy Family, in Rococo style.

The altar of the presbytery is the largest, surmounted by a canvas depicting the Madonna dell’Itria.

On the right, the chapel of the Sorrowful, dated XIX century, was built on the area of the pre-existing church as shown by the carved frames that decorate the entrance door and a hexagonal pillar walled in the wall of the nearby sacristy.

Finally, on the floor there are three tomb slabs in pitch stone, symbolizing the burials of the people, the clergy and the powerful Cosentini family, who enjoyed the  jus patronage  on the altar.

Having the patronage on the altar, meant having the right to choose the priest of the church and provide for his sustenance.