The inside is typical in Bronte's
churches, one only hall with semicircular apse and cantor's place that
impends over the entry zone of the nave.
The nave, rectangular,
is surmounted by a truss of remarkable dimensions with inclined rafters
and wood-floor and a carrying plot supported by wooden shelfs sculpted to
The apse has a barrel vault with spherical head.
The decoration of the wooden ceiling is of Nicolò Dinaro (son of
the brontese painter Giuseppe Dinaro) with showy geometrical, floral and
A little chapel, to left coming in, of which can still be seen mouldings
and frames, it was restructured and modified to build above it the cantor's
area which is close to the entry of the nave.
The church has five altars. The first, to right, is the chapel of the Madonna Of The Mercede, to follow there is
the San Filippo Neri altar.
On the right the chapel of the Cinque Piaghe (Five
Sores) and the altar of Saint Stefano (with a little marble group of the
Virgin with the child to whom Sant' Anna offers a bunch of grapes).
In the niche of the major altar,
between duplicated Doric columns and above tympanum, stands the marble
statue of the Madonna della Catena or
Santa Maria Of The Snow (that the Radice judges of the Gagini school).
A painted marble coat of arms is found under the statue.
Two pictures adorn the church (representing San Filippo Neri and Saint Stefano) executed in 1876 by the brontese Agostino
Attinà (copies from two bigger originals).
the altar dedicated to S. Stephen (the second to the left) there is
a big picture of the classic school showing the lapidating of the
Saint (measuring 4,25 x 3,50 m.).
The brontese historian Benedetto Radice writes that «truly beautiful is the head and
the pose of S. Stephen and of the people who were stoning him to
death» and that it was a copy made by Agostino Attinà in 1876
from an original painting by father Giuseppe Tommasio of 1646.
On the same altar there is a small marble group of the Virgin with
the child to whom Saint Anne offers a bunch of grapes.
To note, down to the right of the picture showing S. Phillip Neri, a
pleasant view of Bronte with its churches and mount Etna impending
over as background.
writes (in his "Historical Memories of Bronte") that on August 5
the brontesi still «remember with pain the dreadful slaughters and fires of 1860; and they also remember with pride
than on the flight of steps of the church, the people caught up and killed in September 16 of the 1820, the baron Palermo." who had come to
assail the country, with more than two thousand soldiers, for having Bronte joined Palermo against the Borbon».
Some small curiosity
Until 1582 in front of the church there was the gallows (later
shifted to the “Scialandro”).
It was father Antonino Castronovo,
general visitor of the Montréal’s archbishop, who, when he came to
Bronte the 12th of February 1582, ordered «to remove the gallows
placed in front of the church and replace it with a cross and if any
military captain would try to use it again to hang somebody, should be
told that he could be excommunicated.»
Radice writes that
«…the people of Bronte remember with pride that, on the steps of the
church, on the 16th of September 1820, caught and killed the captain
Baron Palermo who, under command of the Prince of Catena, had came
with the captain Zucchero, to attack the town with more than two
thousand soldiers, for the simple reason that Bronte had joined
Palermo against the Bourbons.»
It is also worth citing the devotion (by now almost disappeared and
obsolete) and the prayers that Bronte’s peasants for centuries turned
to Maria SS. della Mercede. The statue of the «Maronna
Miccera» is placed on an altar dedicated to her; it is made of
painted papier-mâché, 140 cm high and was made during the 19th century.
It was carried in procession whenever a drought threatened the harvest.
This is what the local newspaper “Il
Ciclope” was writing during the fifties: «Viva la Madonna della Mercede»
(Hurray for the Mercedes
«Finally the so wanted rain has arrived! Never before so many peasants,
intellectual middle class and workmen had asked with so much
trepidation the sky, overcast since many days, for some rain. Great
was the anguish that clasped the hearths for fear of famine, for
scarcity of bread other great scourge in times so unlucky.
Everywhere in the Continent rain had fallen abundantly, even causing
heavy damages: while in the blessed land of God a tremendous drought
had disheartened everybody.
But the Sicilians hearth is firm and its
faith strong. Everywhere solemn vows were made to God, to the Virgin
and to the Saints.
In Bronte hundreds and hundreds of believers went to implore for a
miracle by the Mercedes Madonna, the Virgin who, pressing to her
breast her divine son in an embrace of love and protection, has
granted their vows, The rain has come! Hurray for the Mercedes
Madonna! Men and women were shouting nearly in tears for the great joy
– Be blessed, gentle our Mother! Hurray for your Mercy!
The rain was wetting some wrinkled face of old peasant, turned to the
sky, and gets mingled with its tears gushing out from his hearth open
now to the greatest joy.»
(Il Ciclope, year II, n. 7 (19) of the 13th
of April 1947)
first brontese school to read and write
The Little Seminary
Next to the Chiesa della Catena (on the right) there is now the
Little Seminary (well-deserving Institution
founded in1922 by father Giuseppe Salanitri) and the ancient San
Carlo Oratory (with a fair number of 17th century pictures) seat
of the same San Carlo confraternity founded during the XVI century.
The Little Seminary was once the seat of the ancient San Filippo