The Basilica del Santissimo Salvatore (Noto)

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The Basilica del Santissimo Salvatore (Most Holy Redeemer) is a splendid example of the transition between late Baroque and Neoclassicism in Noto. It is one of the monuments declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the serial site Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto. From the church it is possible to reach the bell tower, one of the best vantage points to enjoy the view of Noto.

The history of the Basilica of the Santissimo Salvatore in Noto

The construction of the Basilica del Santissimo Salvatore of Noto began in 1767. This church was desired by the Mother Abbess, Sister Maria Isabella Rau della Ferla, who came from one of the most influential noble families of Noto. The project was entrusted to the architect Andrea Gigante, but when he died in 1787, the building was not completed. The work was entrusted to the canon D. Antonio Mazza, who designed the façade and the pronaos.

Architecture artwork of the Basilica del Santissimo Salvatore of Noto

The façade of the Basilica del Santissimo Salvatore of Noto is divided by a cornice into two overlapping orders. Above the entrance portal, a very special element stands out. It is a jealousy, a grille with a curved shape that allowed the cloistered nuns to look through without being seen. The interior of the church is an extraordinary testimony of the phase of Sicilian cultural transition between late Baroque and Neoclassicism. Of particular interest are the frescoes on the vault and the paintings on the side altars. On the right are the Adoration of the Magi, attributed to Giuseppe Patania, and the Crucifixion, attributed to Giuseppe Velasco. On the left are The Presentation of Saints Maurus and Placidus to Saint Benedict, signed by Giuseppe Velasco, and Our Lady of the Rosary, attributed to the same painter. Other important works of art include: a wooden sculpture of the Madonna and Child and the silver urn containing the relics of St. Restituto Martire.

The Complex of the Basilica del Santissimo Salvatore

Together with the former convent and seminary, the Basilica del Santissimo Salvatore forms a single monumental complex. It covers almost 11,000 square meters and is the largest building in Noto. It is a perfect fusion of different architectural styles. In fact, the basilica is neoclassical, the convent is baroque, while the seminary dates from the 20th century. 

The former Monastery of Santissimo Salvatore of Noto

The former convent of the Basilica del Santissimo Salvatore of Noto was built in the Baroque style at the beginning of the eighteenth century and designed by the architect Vincenzo Sinatra. It has two facades that stand out for their creative power and high concentration of space. On the south side, facing Corso Vittorio Emanuele, there are thirteen magnificent stained glass windows. On the other hand, the eastern side, where there are five more windows, faces the church of San Francesco all’Immacolata, with which it forms one of the most beautiful corners of the city. The bell tower of the convent, probably designed by Rosario Gagliardi, has four orders with loggias and a curvilinear course. The convent was inhabited by nuns until 1934, when a fire destroyed the northwest wing. Today the lower part of the Convent of Santissimo Salvatore houses the Civic Archaeological Museum of Noto

Interesting fact: Several scenes from the movie Sparrow (Storia di una capinera), directed by Franco Zeffirelli, were filmed at the Convent of the Santissimo Salvatore in Noto.

The maid and the knight in the sugar chest

The history of the Monastery of Santissimo Salvatore is linked to a very special episode that dates back to the 19th century and has been handed down to the present day. Apparently, a young knight would sneak into the building to meet with a lay servant. The meetings always took place in the pantry, but someone told the superior of the monastery. One day, when the informants alerted the superior that the young man was inside, she went to the pantry, followed by the other nuns. When she found the young man hiding in a half-empty sugar box, she asked him, What are you doing here, knight? He replied with a pleading voice, Mother Abbess, I am in this sugar box. This expression is still used today in Noto to mean “I am in this world of trouble”.

The Seminary of the Santissimo Salvatore

The Seminary of Santissimo Salvatore  occupies an area of about six thousand square meters and was built between 1945 and 1955. Corrado Carpano’s design made it possible to create a building in perfect harmony with both the Church and the Convent of the Holy Redeemer. The ground floor is developed around a courtyard covered on the north side by a portico. Here are: gatehouse, living room, assembly hall, refectory and kitchen. On the second floor there are dormitories for seminarians, classrooms, lounges, verandas and terraces.

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