One of the most striking sights of Ragusa is the cobalt blue dome of the Santa Maria dell’Itria Church. The best vantage point to see the dome of this church, which is located in the old Jewish part of the city, is signposted.
Santa Maria dell’Itria Church Ragusa
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History and description
The Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Itria was constructed in the 14th century. At the time, its location was the center of the ancient Jewish neighborhood called Cartellone.
The church was property of the order of the Knights of Rhodes. Initially, it was dedicated to Santo Giuliano l’Ospedaliere, because of the adjacent hospitium for the sick and homeless. However, the presence of an effigy of the Madonna dell’Itria caused its name to be changed to the present one.
Unlike most churches in the city, it was hardly damaged during the 1693 earthquake.
During the first half of the 18th century, the church was enlarged and renovated in a Baroque style. The new facade was completed in 1740.
The bottom part of the facade is characterized by three portals, the frames of which are decorated with carvings of guirlandes and flower motifs.
The dome topping the campanile flanking the facade rests on an octagonal drum with eight terracotta panels decorated with colorful art-nouveau designs of vases with flowers.
The interior consists of three naves, separated by columns with Corinthian capitals and round arches.
What to see
The five altars in the aisles were sculpted and carved by the members of the local Cultraro family. They worked from 1741 to 1758 on the project.
The San Giuliano Altar and the Altar of the Crucifix were finished first and are characterized by the exuberance of the decorations.
The decorations of the Altar of San Biagio and the Altar of the Holy Family are more subtle.
The altar of the presbytery is the bigger one of the five and contains a large painting of the “Madonna dell’Itria”.
The first chapel on the right is the Cappella dell’Addolarata, which was only constructed in the 19th century. The chapel contains some features of the first version of the church, including the hexagonal pillar incorporated in the sacristy wall.
There are three floor tombs inside the church, one for the people, one for the clergy and one for the Cosentini family. The latter had the right of patronage of the Altar of the Crucifix.
The triumphal arch of the presbytery indicates the year 1739, which is the year the church was finished.
The name of the church derives from the Greek word Odygitria, meaning “she who leads the way”.