itinerario 13

Chiesa di San Matteo – Scicli

On top of the hill of San Matteo, the place where the ancient Scicli developed, stands the church of San Matteo, the undisputed symbol of Scicli, which dominates the city center from above and offers a magnificent view of the whole city up to the sea .

Although it is not possible to date precisely the foundation of the mother church of Scicli because the ancient buildings and architectures were modified and remodeled several times due to earthquakes, some documents testify to the existence of the church from 313 after Christ when the free cult of the Christianity.

After the terrible earthquake of 1693, despite the city being rebuilt downstream, it was decided to build the mother church on the hill despite the opposition of the bishop of the time. The citizens were strongly linked to the place because it kept the relics of Blessed Guglielmo, a hermit from Scicli who died in 1404.

The works begun in 1704 lasted for over a century but the ambitious project was never completed. The church was definitively abandoned in 1874, the roof was dismantled to avoid second thoughts and the mother church was transferred to the current church of Sant’Ignazio in piazza Italia.

The position of the church on the hill shows the entire side downstream, which develops as a second façade concluded by the eighteenth-century bell tower which replaced the previous one which collapsed due to the earthquake.

From the sober and elegant prospectus, the facade develops on two orders, the lower one characterized by three doors and a series of pilasters and columns. The second order has a large central window decorated on the sides with plumes and naturalistic motifs.

The Theater was reopened in 1857 with the staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Traviata”; after the unification of Italy, it was named after Giuseppe Garibaldi. In 1870, the building became municipal property.

Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the Theater became the center of the cultural life of the city (becoming the fourth in importance in Sicily after the theaters of Palermo, Messina and Catania) hosting not only operas and prose performances, but also charity evenings, singing competitions and performances starring school students; in the Thirties, the provincial fencing championships for young fascists were also held here.

In 1943, the theater was also adapted to a cinema.

At the end of the Second World War, the building was unsafe in several places, floors and decorations were deteriorated and worn out. After the restoration, the Theater showed an enlarged stage, a greater number of seats in the stalls and a grandstand instead of the third tier of boxes, beyond which was the projection room.

From here, the old temple of prose and opera begins a slow phase of degradation which will lead to its closure in 1984.

After a restoration that lasted several years, the theater reopened its doors on 13 June 2000. The renovation works bring back the ancient beauty of the second half of the 19th century and the post-war period.

The bands of the balustrades of the boxes are redone from an original trace that had remained in the stalls, the vault is completely repainted, with portraits of Verdi, Bellini, Beethoven and Mozart, while the entrance is enriched with decorative motifs from the late nineteenth century.

Inside it has a basilica plan marked by three naves, the catacombs used to bury citizens up until 1884 extend under the floor, while outside, in front and to the side, there is a long square.

An enchanting place just 11 km from Modica. Good walk!