Only A few minutes walk from the Cathedral of Catania there is the Church of San Benedetto, right in the middle of the famous baroque street called Via Crociferi. The church is considered a small Sicilian Sistine chapel because of the richness of its frescoes realized by Giovanni Tuccari, a painter from Messina, in the 18th century ... More info ›
Only A few minutes walk from the Cathedral of Catania there is the Church of San Benedetto, right in the middle of the famous baroque street called Via Crociferi. The church is considered a small Sicilian Sistine chapel because of the richness of its frescoes realized by Giovanni Tuccari, a painter from Messina, in the 18th century. But the church is not just a triumph of baroque painting, there is also a large choir that looks like a Spanish galleon, a huge and beautiful reminder of the secluded life of the cloistered nuns that still live here, and the famous Angels' staircaise made of marble and stucco. The Church of San Benedetto is also famous because it was part of the set for "Storia di una Capinera" by Franco Zeffirelli, a movie from the short story by Giovanni Verga.For the city of Catania it is a symbol of religious faith that reaches its peak during the festivities of Sant'Agata when the Benedictine nuns sing, for the patron saint, from the central gate.
The visit starts at the info point of the Church of San Benedetto (Via Teatro Greco, 2) where you can exchange your voucher for the ticket and take the audio guide that will describe the various points of interest. The tour includes: a small room with the ruins of a Roman house (domus romana), the parlor, the angels' staircase and of course the Church of San Benedetto.
The house of the cloistered nuns of Saint Benedict was built from 1334, then it was razed to the ground by the earthquake of 1693, which spared only five out of the sixty religious women who used to inhabit it. The church and the monastery were rebuilt between 1708 and 1763, thanks to the work of various architects (Di Benedetto, Battaglia, Vaccarini) and redecorated by various painters ( Giovanni Tuccari from Messina is the most important one). The majority of the gorgeous frescoes were covered by stuccos at the end of XVIII century. Then they came back to surface because of the bombards of 1943, which severely damaged the building. The frescoes were restored thanks to a project by Armando Dillon.
The whirlwind of colours on the vault and semi-dome was painted by Giovanni Tuccari. With quick and frenzied brush strokes, he reveals his cultural origins, connected with Messina, the city in which he was born in 1667. It is possible to admire here the Story of Saint Benedict and several Allegories surrounding the Triumph of Saint Benedict. The Saint is represented in his traditional iconography, in a festive and cheerful ensemble. Tuccari's painting and the architecture of the church blend together and form a unique and all-encompassing element.
The ensemble of elegant draperies, ecstatic visions and the noble attitude reveal the peculiarities of the Baroque style and impress the visitors to this day
The monastic community, still present in the monastery, joined the Institute of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. This episode revived and strengthened the spiritual presence of the Benedictine Order in Catania. In the church, in addition to the frescoes by Tuccari, it is possible to admire paintings by S. Lo Monaco, M. Desiderato and M. Rapisardi, and the wonderful altar decorated with jasper and silver foils on which the Lamb of God dominates.