Modica - town of the 100 churches - Sicilyincoming

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Massed along the sides of the four hills that surround conveys the excitement of the first great city-crib. Founded by the Sicilians in 1250 BC, proud of its secular status, proudly flaunts its most beautiful treasures: art and landscape. Yesterday County, Heritage today, refers to a route from its outer periphery with quarry Ispica (settlements from Bronze Age), the farms, the rock churches, the dry wall indentifying tablecloths and reinforced earth observed, leads us to the centre through the enchanting baroque path flanked by a lattice with medieval architecture and urban living unique. Sharp in the Old Town, the testimony of the Cave Dress, troglodyte caves, inhabited until 50 years ago that poor people dressed home. Its architectural treasures both ecclesiastical and civil, make the city a huge treasure of art, the two cathedrals of San Giorgio (in the upper Modica) and San Pietro (the bottom Modica) are guidelines that urban expansion leads through the great convents of the Franciscans, Jesuits, the Benedictines, etc. Churches and Monasteries dot the route that develops from the splendid baroque balcony natural lace the valley floor. Stands out among them, high above the city, the Church of S. Giovanni Evangelista in baroque style. Palazzo Polara, Palazzo Moncada, Palazzo Papa, Palazzo dei Mercedari, Palazzo Napolino, Palazzo Campailla, the Convent of Sant’Anna, the Tower of the East, the Church of S. Nicolò Inferiore, the Church of Santa Maria di Betlemme, are goals sough after art lovers. And in the evening wears her most beautiful dress, studded with flickering lights, indifferent to the passing of time, as intriguing waiting for her husband, dominated by the Castello dei Conti that it holds the secret for centuries. At Easter the city empties its houses and going into the bottom to give way to a secular traditions which sees the Madonna to turn the neighbourhood of the city in search of the son and on finding  the unreal silence  of people burst out in shouts of joy by hugs and kisses as the Madonna Vasa Vasa is the Son through the skilful manipulator of a hidden beneath the dummy that represents it. Attending this event is a must for every Easter Modica and, later, at home, a triumph of traditional typical of the place of fact concluded with the inevitable Modica chocolate Aztec origin.

The Church of San Giorgio

The Cathedral of Modica Alta is a masterpiece of the Hyblean baroque. The scenic effect of the church is made more impressive by the long flight of steps and the central part of the façade, which rises up to the bell tower. Its imposing structure recalls the “Trinità dei Monti” in Rome. Built at the end of the 11th century, on the ruins of a previous church, it was destroyed by the earthquake of 1613. Building began again in 1643, but it was seriously damaged by the earthquake of 1693  and reconstructed later, in the present baroque style, in the 18th century. The interior, divided into five naves by columns with Corinthian capitals, is rich of stuccoes, statues and paintings of value. Over the second altar of the right aisle you can observe Filippo Palladino’s masterpiece: “La Vergine Assunta” (1610), in which he portrays himself in the last character on the right, as one of the twelve Apostles. In the chapel at the end of the left hand aisle there is the marble group of the “Madonna della Neve” (1511) by Mancino and Berrettaro, pupil of Gagini. In the apse can be admired the great Polyptych by Bernardo Niger (1573) which depicts the story of Christ, S. Giorgio and           S. Martino. The nine panels and the central lunette at the top which represents the Saviour, are inserted in an inland frame in gilded wood. The main altar is covered in richly engraved silver panels, as is also the Arca Santa (on the last altar of the right aisle) made by Venetian silversmiths in the 14th century. On the floor of the transept is traced out a sundial (1895) by the mathematician Armando Perini. The ray of light which penetrates trough the gnomon at midday (on the top right side) marks the astronomic coordinates on the polychromatic mosaic flooring.

The Church of San Pietro

The Church dates back to the years 1350-60. It was destroyed by the earthquake in 1613 and reconstructed soon afterwards; but it was demolished once again by the earthquake in 1693 and was finally rebuilt at the beginning of the 18th century. The church is in eighteenth century style and you can see a baroque style enriched by “rococò” ornaments, that is common in the architecture in the South-Eastern Sicily in the second part of the 18th century. Besides the twelve statues representing the Apostles (the so called “Santoni”) on the either side of the fine steps, four other Saint statues may be observed church; the one of the Saviour is enriched by an aureole; the Symbol of S. Pietro is placed over the main entrance. The interior is divided into three naves by two rows of columns. Each later aisle includes a chapel with four altars and a sacristy. Over the fourth altar of the right aisle you can observe the marble group of the “Madonna di Trapani” by F. Laurana. In a niche over the right altar, the statuary group of “S. Pietro e il Paralitico” is very interesting; it was carved out one oak trunk in 1893 by Civiletti from Palermo in a realistic style. These two works are the most important one that you can see in the church. Lastly you can observe the marble high altar, the inlaid pavement, the imposing organ – built by the Polizzi brothers from Modica – with more than 3000 pipes.

The Church of S. Maria di Betlem

It was built on the ruins of four churches (S. Maria of Berlon, S. Bartolomeo, S. Antonio, S. Mauro) in the 15th century. The interior, with a nave and two aisles, has a beautiful wooden panelled ceiling. The right aisle ends with the late 15th century chapel of the Sacramento, otherwise called the Cabrera Chapel. It survived the earthquake of the 1693 and provides magnificent evidence of what was once the original building, having a late Gothic portal with Arab, Norman and Catalan elements. Another remarkable thing to see in the middle of the left aisle is the fine Christmas Crib (1882) by the Capuchin friar Benedetto Papale. The small terracotta statues, made by the Vaccaro brothers from Caltagirone, wear the old costumes of the poor people and are set against a background which reproduces the valleys and the caves of Modica. Outside the church, on the left side, you can admire the “Lunetta di Berlon” (15th-16th century), a bas-relief by anonymous local artists, representing the nativity. It was probably an arcosolium of the portal of the church of S. Maria of Berlon, one of the four churches demolished and replaced by the church of S. Maria of Betlem.

Castlello dei Conti

Its remnants consist of a 18th  century tower and a more recent clock, both symbolically representing it. The Castle boasts an ancient and glorious history. The city, especially under the Norman, flourished to become the heart of a noted County governing a vast territory in the South-Eastern Sicily. The castle was largely destroyed by a terrible earthquake in 1693. Recent excavations have brought to light outstanding finds and the staircase leading up to the main entrance. Today, a majestic clock-tower, of more recent construction, is the castle dominant feature.

Location: Corso F. Crispi
Opening hours: Monday closed; Tuesday – Sunday from 9:00 to 13:00 & from 15:30 to 20:00

Quasimodo’s house

Modica is the birthplace of the poet Salvatore Quasimodo who won Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959. The house-museum of Quasimodo is located in Via Posterla. Also, on initiative of the poet relatives, it has been recently set up a Literary Park that includes the most significant places in Sicily for Quasimodo and his family. The house is open to the public as a museum.

Location: Via Posterla 84
Info: 0932 753864
Opening hours: Monday closed; Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00 to 13:00 & 16:00 to 19:00

Special Thank you for the text to the Modica Tourism Office


Modica: town of the 100 churches
Area: 290 km²
Elevation: 296m
Population: 54 721
Population name: Modicani
Dialling code: 0932
Zip Code: 97015
Geographic Location: South-Eastern Sicily
Saint Patron: San Pietro, San Giorgio


-Easter Day: Festival of “Madonna Vasa Vasa”
The statue of Resurrected Christ goes around the town, while the Madonna, wearing morning, looks for her son in the streets of the different parts of the town. They meet in Piazza Principe di Napoli (the heart of the town) at midday: the bells ring a joyous peel, the doves fly out from under the Madonna’s mantle and a jubilant crowd applauds the embrace of the Mother and Her son.
-23rd April: Feast of San Giorgio
San Giorgio Day is celebrated on April 23rd, but the traditional feast takes place on the following Sunday. The statue of the saint is carried through the alleys of Upper Modica and the feast culminates when the statue is brought back to his cathedral where the congregation let him turn around until the porters exhaust their strength The celebration culminates with a fantastic fireworks display.
-29th June: Feast of San Pietro
During three days which precede the feast, stalls fill the streets in the centre of the town.
-November - December:  Festival of Chocobarocco
Modica chocolate festival takes place in the town centre of this beautiful town. During the five-day festival the main squares, streets and historic palaces host a range of events dedicated not only to the local chocolate and sweet specialties but also to art and culture.


- Modica chocolate

Modican chocolate is still using traditional Aztec method handed down by the Spanish. Strictly controlled and made according to a centuries-old process, the chocolate comes in characteristic uneven rectangular bars with three grooves across the top. The same manual production methods have largely been used since the 18th century, when the first paste was mixed with refined sugar and flavours on a crescent-shaped table made of lava stone, under which glowing coals were placed. Today, the mixture is prepared in a double boiler to protect its organoleptic characteristics. Still made without added fats or emulsifiers, the cocoa paste is not subjected to the tempering processes typically used to make other chocolate. The sugar crystals are thus preserved – the unique secret of the Modican recipe.

- Pastieri – made with minced lamb meat, pepper, cheese and eggs
- Excellent quality cheeses
- Mpanatiggi – sweet ravioli filled with minced beef, chocolate, almond and cinnamon


By car: from Catania take the motorway A18 Catania-Siracusa-Gela to the exit Rosolini. As you leave the motorway, at the cross, turn left direction Rosolini-Modica. After the level crossing, you can reach the SS115 direction Modica.

By train: there direct trains to Catania and Syracuse from Bologna, Firenze, Genova, Roma, Torino, Venezia e Milano. From Catania and Syracuse there are regional train to Modica.

By bus: AST bus lines to Modica from all cities of Sicily

AST – 0932767314

By plane: the nearest airport is “Fontanarossa” in Catania (120km)


Location: Corso Umberto I 149
Info: 0932 753324

Opening hours: Monday – Saturday from 9:00 to 13:00 & 15:30 to 19:00; Sunday from 10:00 to 13:00

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