Church of Sant’Agata (Ragusa)

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The Church of Sant’Agata ai Cappuccini is one of the three churches of the Hyblaean Garden. Originally built in the 16th century, it was rebuilt after being damaged in the Val Di Noto earthquake. In the seventeenth century a Capuchin convent was added to the church, which is now a small hotel.

History of the Church of Sant’Agata of the Capuchins in Ragusa

The construction of the church of Sant’Agata in Ragusa dates back to 1519. In 1610 the nearby convent was added, where the Capuchin friars, who had been present until then, moved to another part of the city. The earthquake of 1693 severely damaged both the church and the convent. The different dates of reconstruction are marked by different inscriptions in different parts of the church. 1714 is engraved on a ceiling beam, 1715 on the choir door and 1742 on the floor of the entrance corridor to the convent. With the birth of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, the church and the convent, like all other ecclesiastical properties, became the property of the State. A fundraising campaign promoted by the faithful made it possible to buy back the church and reopen it to the public. From the 1960s, the Capuchin monastery began a slow decline. After restoration in the 1980s, the building now houses a small hotel, the Nosco School of Culinary Arts and the Cenobio Restaurant.

Church architecture artworks

The architecture of the church of St. Agatha of Ragusa is very linear. On the outside it has a very simple portal surmounted by a window. On the triangular front, at the top, you can see the coat of arms of the Capuchin Order. The interior, with a single nave, has a beautiful wooden truss roof. The highlight is definitely the triptych on the high altar by Pietro Novelli. The three canvases are set in a beautiful inlaid and carved wooden frame. Further down are two more paintings: a St. Anthony of Padua on one side and a St. Francis on the other. On the left of the high altar there is a Nativity dated 1520 and attributed by some to Deodato Guinaccia.

Piero Novelli’s Triptych

The most interesting work of art in the church of Sant’Agata in Ragusa is undoubtedly the triptych by Pietro Novelli. It seems that the painter created this work to thank the Capuchins for their hospitality and protection. In fact, Novelli had fled Palermo after a violent quarrel with a friend of the king. The central painting represents the Assumption of the Virgin among angels and saints. According to tradition, the apostle on the left, with beard and moustache, is the painter’s self-portrait. The painting on the left shows St. Agatha in prison, comforted by St. Peter, while the one on the right shows the Martyrdom of St. Catherine.

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