Church of San Michele (Savoca)

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The church of San Michele Arcangelo in Savoca is one of the most beautiful in the city. Built at the beginning of the ninth century and modified in the baroque style in the fifteenth century, it still preserves two splendid portals in Gothic-Sicilian style. Thanks to a crowdfunding project launched in 2015, the association “Save the Soul of Savoca” is working on the restoration of the precious frescoes inside.

History of the Church of San Michele Arcangelo in Savoca

The present church of San Michele Arcangelo in Savoca dates back to the beginning of the 14th century. It was preceded by a smaller church, probably built in Norman times, which was the church of the castle of Pentefur. The present building is the result of an extension and reconstruction of this church. During the seventeenth century, the interior of the church was restored in the Baroque style. The work ended in 1701 with the completion of a cycle of frescoes. In the following centuries, the church was slowly abandoned and the paintings began to deteriorate. In 2015, a crowdfunding campaign promoted by the “Save the Soul of Savoca” association raised the funds needed to restore the first four paintings on the west wall. The work was completed in September 2020 and the paintings were moved.

Architecture and artwork in the Church of San Michele

The façade of the Church of San Michele is characterized by two sandstone portals in the Gothic-Sicilian style, reminiscent of those in the Cathedral of Messina. They date back to the 15th century and are characterized by rich moldings, twisted columns and trifoliate arches in the tympanum. The bell tower also dates from the same period.

Interesting fact: According to sources, pagans who decided to convert to Christianity had to climb the seven steps of the church on their knees as an act of penance. Then they could be baptized.

The interior has a single nave, no columns and rich Baroque decoration. The wooden ceiling and the magnificent pulpit are from the 18th century. In the high altar there is a small painting of St. Michael the Archangel. In the side altar, to the left of the entrance, there is a large canvas depicting Saints Cosmas and Damian. The church also has a statue of St. Michael, but it is currently kept in the church of St. Nicholas.

The legend of the theft of the statue of St. Michael

The village of Savoca has a historical rivalry with the nearby village of Forza d’Agrò. Here, the feast of St. Michael the Archangel was celebrated by carrying a statue of the saint in procession through the streets of the village. During one of these celebrations, some inhabitants of Savoca stole the statue and took it to their church of San Michele Arcangelo. This led to a great dispute between the two villages, which was resolved after several years. To seal the peace, the nobles of Savoca decided to invite the nobles of Forza d’Agrò to a banquet. To ensure a better integration, they even arranged the table so that they took turns. But while the Savocesi were served beef, the guests were served dog meat. The nobles of Forza d’Agrò did not notice anything and from that time on they were nicknamed “dog-eaters”. In return, the people of Savoca got the nickname of “seven-faced cunning”.

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