Cathedral of Noto

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The Cathedral of Noto, dedicated to St. Nicholas, is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in the city. With its grandeur it dominates Corso Vittorio Emanuele in a position diametrically opposed to Palazzo Ducezio, seat of the town hall. It is one of the monuments that is part of the UNESCO site Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto, and after its collapse in 1996 and its reconstruction it became a symbol of rebirth for Sicily and all of Italy.

History of the Cathedral of Noto

The Cathedral of Noto is the result of two different phases of construction, in which different architects and operators took turns. Work began at the beginning of the eighteenth century, probably under the direction of the architect Fra Angelo Italia. In 1727 he was succeeded by Rosario Gagliardi, who revised the original design but did not complete the construction of the façade. The work was completed in the second half of the 18th century by Vincenzo Sinatra, who made new modifications to Gagliardi’s design. In the course of history, the dome of the church was rebuilt three times after collapsing. The first episode was in 1760 and the reconstruction was entrusted to Stefano Ittar. The second was in 1848 and it was Francesco Cassone who rebuilt it in neoclassical forms. The third was in 1996, when a large part of the church also collapsed. The interior of Noto Cathedral, almost completely unadorned until the mid-1950s, was frescoed by Nicola Arduino and Armando Baldinelli between 1950 and 1956. Almost all of these decorations were lost when the church collapsed in 1996.

The collapse and reconstruction of Noto Cathedral

On the evening of March 13, 1996, one of the pillars of Noto Cathedral gave way, causing the collapse of the dome, the right aisle, the nave, and the transept. Among the causes of the collapse were a construction defect and some structural damage caused by an earlier earthquake in 1990. In October 1999, after an initial phase of rubble removal, reconstruction began. All collapsed parts will be rebuilt using the same original materials and construction techniques. Special measures were taken to make the building earthquake resistant. The remaining pylons, which had the same structural defects as the collapsed ones, will also be reconstructed. The consolidation of the building was completed by inserting steel rods into the masonry. After seven years of work, more than 100,000 stone blocks and a reconstructed volume of 19,500 cubic meters, Noto Cathedral was reopened on June 18, 2007.

Architecture of the Cathedral of Noto

The Cathedral of Noto stands at the top of a splendid triple staircase designed by the architect Bernardo Labisi in the first half of the 18th century. Its façade is a perfect fusion of baroque and classical elements. It consists of three different bodies: the central one is flanked by the left one with the bell tower and the right one with the clock tower. The elevation is divided into two orders separated by a cornice. The lower one has free-standing columns with Corinthian capitals. The bronze entrance portal represents scenes from the life of St. Conrad and is the work of the sculptor Giuseppe Pirrone (1983). The upper order replicates the scansion of the lower order. The four statues in the central area represent the four Evangelists and were made in 1796 by the sculptor Giuseppe Orlando. The interior of the church has a basilical layout with a Latin cross and three naves with a deep choir.

The new interior decorations of the Cathedral of Noto

Once the reconstruction of the Cathedral of Noto was completed, a second phase began to decorate the interior of the building. Twenty-six artists participated in a competition to choose who would paint the frescoes on the dome, the oil paintings for the transept altars, and the sculptures to be placed in the niches of the aisles. On the occasion of the 54th Venice Biennale, the sketches were displayed in an exhibition at Palazzo Grimani, curated by Vittorio Sgarbi.

The artists involved in the decoration of Noto Cathedral

On the vault of the nave the painter Lino Frongia painted the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, a canvas of more than 110 square meters. The Russian painter Oleg Supereco painted the Pentecost fresco on the dome and those on the pendentives with the four Evangelists. The artist Bruno d’Arcevia took care of the apse basin and painted the fresco of Christ Pantocrator and that of the Doctors of the Church. The same artist was then commissioned to fresco the vault of the presbytery, where he painted the Waiting for the Last Judgement. The high altar, the pulpit and the crucifix, in silvered bronze with jasper bases from Sicily, are by Giuseppe Ducrot. The statues of the Twelve Apostles along the side aisles and those of St. Francis and St. Catherine on either side of the main entrance were added in 2013. The artists involved are Filippo Dobrilla, Demetrio Spina, Vito Cipolla, Tullio Cattaneo, Giuseppe Ducrot, Giuseppe Bergomi, Livio Scarpella and Gaspare da Brescia. Francesco Mori was responsible for the production of seventeen stained glass windows, while on the side walls are the Stations of the Cross painted by Roberto Ferri.

Feast and urn of San Corrado

In the chapel to the right of the choir of Noto Cathedral is the so-called urn of San Corrado, which contains the remains of San Corrado Confalonieri. The urn is made entirely of silver and is richly decorated with engraved bas-reliefs. It was designed by the architect Giovanni Manuella in the 15th century, but in the following centuries various goldsmiths and silversmiths enriched and modified it. During the celebrations of San Corrado, the urn is carried in procession through the streets of Noto. These are celebrated twice a year: on February 19th and on the last Sunday in August. Also, every ten years, the urn of St. Conrad is carried in procession to the Sanctuary of San Corrado outside the walls, located 6 kilometers from the city center.

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