Church of San Francesco all’Immacolata (Ragusa)

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The church of San Francesco all’Immacolata (St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception) is the largest of the churches of Ragusa Ibla, after the Cathedral of San Giorgio. Originally built by the Franciscans in the 14th century, it was modified in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The damage caused by the earthquake of 1693 required a new reconstruction and consolidation. The church is one of the monuments of Ragusa declared World Heritage by UNESCO.

The history of the Church of San Francesco all’Immacolata in Ragusa

The construction of the Church of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception in Ragusa and its convent dates back to the second half of the 13th century. The original building was in Gothic style, but over the centuries it underwent several transformations, also due to the damage caused by the earthquake of 1693. Of the Gothic church, only the portal on the western façade and the base of the bell tower remain. At the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, the church underwent a major reconstruction and probably an extension in the late mannerist style. The earthquake, however, destroyed the interior of the monastery and collapsed the bell tower and the entire Gothic elevation. The reconstruction was completed in 1711, when the entrance was moved to the south, with the opening of a Baroque portal in what is now Piazza Chiaramonte, and the façade was set back.

Architecture of the Church of San Francesco all’Immacolata in Ragusa

The exterior architecture of the Church of San Francesco all’Immacolata in Ragusa is a mixture of different styles. The old portal is in Gothic style with hook capitals typical of the Swabian period. On the other hand, the portal of the Chiaramonte street and the bell tower are in Baroque style. The latter is built with well-squared blocks of local limestone and is divided into five orders by hardly noticeable cornices. The first two, starting from the bottom, have a very simple style, while the third is decorated with hanging arches, leaves and carved crosses. The last order has a balustrade decorated with candlesticks and statues.

Interior and artwork of the church

The interior of the church of San Francesco all’Immacolata in Ragusa dates back to the reconstruction carried out at the end of the 16th century. It is divided into three naves by two rows of seven cruciform columns with Ionic capitals. On the different altars there are several paintings, among which some by the painter A. Manoli, and some marble tombstones. The most peculiar element of the church, however, is the extensive use of pitchstone. This material was used to make the floor, a 16th century stoup and a very special tombstone. It depicts a knight in Spanish costume lying on a crib and pointing with one hand to a castle. The year 1577 is engraved at his feet. Another masonry masterpiece is located in the adjacent convent. It is a staircase decorated in the first part with long-snouted griffins holding up a wide walkway and four caryatids holding putti with inscriptions and vases of flowers.

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