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The churches of Bronte

How many churches has Bronte had?

Very many and of ancient origin. Think that the Settlement Bronte, even during the Islamic domination, while all other settlements had only one church or none, had already several churches.
Think that in 1174 thirty two were the churches of the district on which had jurisdiction the Benedictine monastery of Maniace,  constructed by will of Margherita di Navarra.

And only a century before, according to a census by an Arab Governor, in the various settlements in Bronte's territory the inhabitants paying taxes were 1659 of which 994 Islamic and 664 Christian (already then there were several churches in Bronte while the other Casali had only one).

Strange people Bronte' inhabitants, often violent, rebellious, quarrelsome but, although were living in grave hardship, always found the money and the energy to fight against the infidels and build new churches.

They were people, with a deep rooted tradition of cult, that resisted the Islamic domination with an always large clergy of high formation and always lined up in defense of the population and, rare thing, with an ancient habit to study (in the XV century there was already a school for the people in rooms adjacent to the Annunziata church.

In the XIII century, according to a reckoning, the population of the Casale Bronte only, subjected to pay taxes counted 500 inhabitants (un hundred "fuochi", fires).

The reunion of the Casali (1535 – 1548) brings the population from 500 to 3.500 inhabitants. Not many but in few years were erected in Bronte another ten beautiful churches and three convents, even if the Municipality did not own any grounds as had been all usurped, in 1494 by Papa Innocenzo VIII who gave them  in endowment, completely free, to the "Grande e Nuovo poor men Hospital" of Palermo, being built then.

Besides those that still exist, of many other churches nothing is known for certain. Many were submerged by the Etna lava; of others only few wrecks remain as testimony.

Benedetto Radice, in his "Memorie storiche di Bronte", talks of about thirty churches disappeared of which there is little historical documentation a part some gaunt description and very few images.

Also, about those councils there is very little documentations on their year of foundation and the same Radice takes as a certain reference to the existence of the churches the "Liber visitationis" of Mons. Ludovico I° De Torres, bishop of Monreale who visited Bronte in September 1574.

We give now a synthetic list of some churches disappeared for general negligence or completely destroyed by earthquakes or the lava of mount Etna happening frequently during the centuries and also (seems unbelievable) by building speculation (the old Church of Madonna del Riparo).

As a brontese historian writes, "where there is a temple, a church there is an aggregation of men town, village, farmhouse and the history of the towns, of the villages intertwines with the history of the churches origin".
The churches of Santa Maria di Gollia, San Mauro, S. Nicoḷ De Petra (in Santa Nicolella district) and San Marchetto (with an annexed hospice) were dependant to the Monastery of S. Filippo di Fragalà.

Other churches of Norman epoch, placed in the districts Corvo, Rotolo and Santa Parasceve, are mentioned in a privilege of Nicoḷ I°, archbishop of Messina.

Tradition preserved in 18° century writings mentions other four churches found in Bronte by king Ruggero: the church of  San Marco on the hillock of the same name, that of Salvatore between San Marco and the Ciapparo district, that of S. Giorgio, which was near the ossuary of the present cemetery (was shaped like Greek cross with frescos on the walls and the date of 1121) and the church of Santa Maria or Chiesa Maggiore which was in the district of the SS. Trinità.

Besides the rural churches of the districts Cattaino, Carbone, Bolo, Scalavecchia, Placa Baiana, Spaṇ, Ricchisgia, the Radice remembers those:

  of  S. Isidoro in district Barbaro (which probably was a parish),

  of S. Nicoḷ Castellaci (shaped as a Greek cross),

  of Santa Maria della Scala (in district Piana, called also Santa Maria dell’Odigitria, patron saint of the Albanian colony),

  of Cristo alla Colonna (near the Simeto river).

Were covered by the lava of the 1651 the churches of Sant'Anto­nino, of S. Pietro dell’Illichito (in district Brignolo) and of Purgatorio.

"Which and how many churches – concludes Benedetto Radice - could exist in the ancient, original Bronte...other than district of fifty straw stacks!".

During the centuries Bronte changed many times its membership Diocese. Till 1178 Bronte depended from Messina, from 1178 to 1801 passed under the dependence of Monreale, and then went back to Messina until 1817. After a short period in which depends to Nicosia diocese (1817-1844) passes definitively under the present Catania diocese.

The ancient "Madonna del Riparo" church
The old Church of Madonna del Riparo

Church of Placa Baiana
The rural San Michele church of the ancient Casale di Placa Bajana. Its inhabitants were the last to move to Bronte (from 1692 to 1730).

Chiesa di San Nicola

The last church of Bronte, dedicated to Saint Agata, has replaced the ancient little church of San Nicoḷ in the Sciarotta District



Visit the churches of Bronte with us

Santa Maria di Maniace
Santa Maria
Santuario dell'Annunziata
Chiesa della SS. Trinità (Matrice)
SS. Trinità
Chiesa e Convento dei pp. Cappuccini
Chiesa del Sacro Cuore
Sacro Cuore
San Silvestro
Chiesa Maria SS. del Rosario
The  Rosario
Chiesa di San Giovanni
San Giovanni
Chiesa e convento di S. Vito
San Vito

Chiesa di San Blandano
San Blandano
Chiesa Maria SS. della Catena
The Catena

Madonna del Riparo
Chiesa Maria SS. del Soccorso
Maria SS. del Soccorso
Chiesa di Santa Caterina
Santa Caterina
San Nicola
Chiesa Madonna della Grazie
S. Maria of Grazie
Chiesa di San Sebastiano
San Sebastiano

The votive Aedicule

Stradario di Bronte (In the original text)

Translated by Sam Di Bella


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