Church of San Nicolò (Savoca)

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The church of San Nicolò in Savoca is one of the most beautiful churches in the town. It houses the precious statue of Santa Lucia, which is carried in procession through the streets of Savoca every year on the second Sunday of August. It became world famous in 1970 when director Francis Ford Coppola decided to shoot the wedding scene between Michael Corleone and Apollonio in the first Godfather movie.

The history of the church of San Nicolò di Savoca

The construction of the church of San Nicolò in Savoca dates back to the 13th century. Its current appearance, however, dates back to the 18th century, as the building has undergone several restorations over the centuries. The two most important ones date back to the end of the 15th century and the second to the beginning of the 18th century. The church has always had a very important social function for the inhabitants of Savoca. From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, the church was the burial place of the working class of the village. In the small square around the church there are still several crypts, although they are no longer visible, which contain the remains of the inhabitants of Savoca who died between the 14th and 19th centuries.

Interesting fact: The Church of San Nicolò was chosen to film the wedding scene between Michael Corleone and Apollonia in The Godfather Part I. It is one of the two Godfather locations in Savoca, the other being Bar Vitelli.

Church of San Nicolò or Church of Santa Lucia?

The Church of San Nicolò is also mistakenly called the Church of Santa Lucia. In Savoca there was a church dedicated to the martyr of Syracuse, which stood in the place where the Town Hall stands today. In 1880 this church collapsed and many works of art and artifacts that were inside were transferred to the Church of St. Nicholas. Among them was a half-bust marble statue of the saint from the 15th century and the silver statue that is carried in procession during the celebrations of St. Lucy. From that time on, the people of Savoca began to identify the building as the Church of Santa Lucia, although this is not correct.

The construction of the church and the legend of the somnambulist

The construction of the Church of San Nicolò is connected with a very peculiar legend that has been handed down to the present day. It seems that the construction of this church began at the same time as the construction of the present Mother Church. The work was followed by the Trimarchi brothers, who immediately began to compete with each other. They were promised that the church that would be finished first would be the Cathedral of Savoca. It seems that the brother who supervised the construction of the church of San Nicolò was sleepwalking. At night, without realizing it, he would return to the site to work, with the result that his work was always the best. One day, when his wife did not find him in bed, she decided to follow him to the site. However, she woke him up unintentionally and he lost his balance and died. The construction of the church of St. Nicholas was stopped for a long time, so when the construction of the other church was finished, it officially became the cathedral. The surviving brother was also in charge of finishing the work on the church of San Nicolò.

Architecture and artwork in the church of San Nicolò

When the church of San Nicolò was built in the fifteenth century, the prevailing style was Siculo-Norman. However, the various restorations carried out over time have distorted the original style. The interior of the church is divided into three naves by two rows of square granite columns that form round arches. Inside there are numerous works of art, some of which come from other places of worship in Savoca, such as the former Church of the Immaculate, now transformed into the Philharmonic Center. Among the most valuable works are a painting of St. Michael the Archangel from the 14th century and a wooden statue of the Immaculate from the 17th century. There are several baroque marble altars in the naves. The church of St. Nicholas also houses the silver statue of St. Lucy, which is venerated every year on the saint’s day.

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