Church of the Anime Sante del Purgatorio (Ragusa)

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The Church of the Anime Sante del Purgatorio (Holy Souls of Purgatory) in Ragusa is one of the oldest churches in the city. Its construction and name are linked to an ancient legend about love, jealousy and repentance. It is one of the monuments that are part of the UNESCO serial site: Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto.

History of the Church of the Anime Sante del Purgatorio in Ragusa

The construction of the Church of the Anime Sante del Purgatorio in Ragusa dates back to 1658 at the behest of the Mazza family. The building was only slightly damaged by the earthquake of 1693, but it underwent many changes during the 18th century. A flight of steps was added to follow the slope of the hill on which it stands, as in the case of the Cathedral of San Giorgio. Around 1725 the bell tower was built, incorporating some remains of the Byzantine walls of the Castle of Ragusa. Finally, in 1740, the church was enlarged from two to three naves.

The Legend of the “Holy Souls of Purgatory

There is also a legend about the origin of the church of the Anime Sante del Purgatorio. It seems that in the place where the church stands today, there was a noble palace where a young couple lived. One day a priest fell in love with the girl, but she refused his attention. In revenge, the priest hid a Protestant Bible in her house and denounced her to the Holy Inquisition. Accused of heresy, the couple was executed. But the priest, overcome with remorse, decided to buy the building, have it demolished and build a church.

Exterior architecture of the church of the Anime Sante del Purgatorio in Ragusa

The elevation of the Church of the Anime Sante del Purgatorio in Ragusa is divided into two orders. In the first, columns with Corinthian capitals mark three different parts. In the central one there is the entrance portal decorated with carvings with plant motifs. In the upper part you can see a special sculpture where the souls of purgatory are represented in flames. A very curious aspect of this church is that the two side portals are fake. On the right side of the church is a large arched buttress that spans the Swabian Eagle Street, probably built after the earthquake to support the building.

The interior of the church and the artwork

The interior of the church of the Anime Sante del Purgatorio in Ragusa is divided into three naves by ten stone columns with Corinthian capitals. The aisles are enriched by several canvasses and splendid polychrome marble altars. On the cornice there are also the characteristic sculptures of skulls with the insignia of kings, popes, cardinals and bishops, symbolizing the transience of wealth and earthly power. Among the many paintings to be admired are the Madonna of the Rosary by Francesco Manno on the second altar on the right and the Holy Family by Tommaso Pollace on the second altar on the left. On the high altar there is a large painting of Saints and Souls in Purgatory, painted by Francesco Manno at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century.

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