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Sicilian Baroque, exploring an unique beauty

European Baroque, born in the 17th century, was the stylistic hallmark of the Spanish monarchs, who formally ruled Sicily until 1713. It was a period of expansion and wealth, where the spiritual power of the Catholic Church was closely tied to the political and economic power of noble families. The Baroque influences, already present throughout the period, reached their peak following the reconstruction that followed two catastrophic events first of the eruption of Mount Etna in 1669 (affecting mainly Catania) and the great earthquake of 1693 that affected all of eastern Sicily.

Reconstruction, often of entire urban centers, designed anew according to the new urbanistic ideas, opened up and animated the spaces of city centers, creating three-dimensional, scenographic, and evocative environments that reflected the wealth and power not only of the State and the Church but also of individual noble families and religious confraternities- these latter multiplied and expanded during this period, laying the foundation for a traditional religiosity that endures over time.

The new constructions have such a unique style that the term “Late Sicilian Baroque” was coined.

Since 2002, these eight centers have been part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List for their unique and distinctive beauty:

Ragusa Ibla, Modica, Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Noto, Catania, Scicli

Walking through the historic center of each of these places in southeastern Sicily, you will find elegant palaces, churches adorned with ancient works, and facades meticulously crafted. A homogeneous style, yet tailored to local specifics. For example, the materials used for construction: while Catania favored volcanic stone, Noto shines with the honey-colored local stone, and Caltagirone surprises with the colorful touch of majolica.

If Ragusa Ibla has preserved the position of the historic city, Noto center was moved and completely redesigned in a harmonious and scenic manner, and Scicli has made use of its location in an area rich in natural caves to integrate them (similar to Matera) into the urban layout. However, they all share common elements that characterize them:

1.Richness and Theatricality: Not only the exteriors, but also the interiors of the churches and palaces built in this style are often richly decorated with sculptures, stucco, paintings, and precious marbles. This dazzling style is a fusion of European and local artistic influences, creating art that is both grand and unique.

2.Sicilian Baroque Churches: One of the most iconic aspects of Sicilian Baroque is the elaborate churches. The Church of San Giorgio in Modica and the Church of San Domenico in Palermo are just two examples of extraordinary Baroque architecture. These churches are characterized by complex facades, columns, detailed stucco decorations, and breathtaking interiors.

3.Squares and Fountains: The squares of Sicilian cities are often adorned with sumptuous Baroque fountains. The Diana Fountain in Syracuse and the Pretoria Fountain in Palermo are exceptional examples of these works of art, with elaborate sculptures and details that captivate anyone who observes them.

4.Baroque Palaces: Noble palaces in Sicilian Baroque style testify to the wealth and grandeur of the era. The Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo and the Palazzo Biscari in Catania are two examples of Baroque architecture that reflect the magnificence of their times.

Ragusa, gemma del Barocco siciliano

Sicilian Baroque has left an indelible mark on the culture and art of the island. The Baroque churches, palaces, and squares are now considered architectural treasures and attract visitors from all over the world. This artistic style has also influenced art and architecture in other parts of Italy and Europe, contributing to the spread of the Baroque as an artistic and architectural movement.

In summary, Sicilian Baroque is a fascinating chapter in the history of art and architecture, representing the wealth, creativity, and grandeur of a golden age in 17th-century Sicily, one more treasure to discover among the many beauties of the island.