NAME: Chiesa madre, in dialect, “Matrice”, or S.S. Trinità (Holy Trinity)

LOCATION: Piazza Matrice.

DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: Between 1505 and 1579.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The Church of the Holy Trinity is perhaps not the oldest in Bronte, but is certainly the largest church in the territory. It was formed from the union of two churches:

  • The Church of Santa Maria, which once stood in the place of the present nave of the Chiesa Madre.
  • The Church of the SS. Trinità, which occupied the space that currently contains the main altar and the two side chapels.

The joining of these two churches dates back to when the 24 Casali were united as one city.  More than a work of art, the Chiesa Madre represents an important source of history for the City since it houses all the records concerning births, marriages, deaths, etc.

INTERIOR: The church was built on the plan of Latin cross, with a central nave and two lateral naves. There is not a precise architectural style, but we can admire the simplicity that, rather than rendering it less interesting, actually distinguishes the church.  In the central nave there were originally 12 sandstone columns, but due to earthquake damage these were reinforced by walling them up into thick piers. At the entrance to the church we can still see what remains of the first column of the nave and the arch, also in sandstone, that were once part of the Church of St. Mary.  Along the length of the church there are several altars and chapels, beginning on the left we find:

  • Chapel of the Sacred Heart.
  • Chapel of Saints Peter and Paul (besides the painting we can also note references to these to saints with through the attributes held in the hands of the sculpted angels).
  • Side altar of Purgatory (in full Baroque-style, the sculpted skeletons on the left represent the ecclesiastical hierarchy, while those of the right, the political hierarchy. They symbolize the fleeting nature of life and the vanity of worldly things that no longer matter at the time of death).
  • Chapel of the Holy Sacrament.

On the right-hand side, we see:

  • Chapel of Saint Biagio (St. Blaise), patron saint of the town.
  • Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows (Madonna Addolorata).
  • The Altar of the Crucifix (constructed in a Baroque style, similar to the Purgatory altar. The architectural component acts as a frame for a large fresco depicting the Lady of Sorrows and St. John separated by a large 15th century wooden crucifix of a suffering Christ on the Cross).
  • Chapel of the Madonna of Candlemas (in memory of the Presentation of Jesus and the Temple).

The main altar unifies the two naves; it is constructed of a wall length carved wooden structure which was part of the old choir.  Within this frame sits majestic mechanical organ (made in Palermo, first years of the 1900s). The organ occupies nearly the entire space of the end wall but it function remains purely decorative, since it has not worked for years.

Within the church, you will also see the mausoleums and tombs of several famous Bronte citizens.  Another detail worth mentioning is the old baptismal font near the chapel of San Biagio, which is in correspondence with the old entrance to the Church of St. Mary;  it dates back to 1614 and is sculpted in marble with a 19th century painted wooden cover.

EXTERIOR: The external structure of the church does not present any particular architectural characteristics to attribute it to any one specific style. From the outside we can see several traces of the two older churches, for example:

  • On the north wall, the corner of the Church of St. Mary juts out. Likewise, we can recognize the old portal of that church which is marked by a pointed limestone archway (walled up now).
  • On the south wall, there is another walled doorway, with an architrave and pilasters cut from a unique greenish stone.
  • Also on the south wall, we can see the sandstone lancet windows.

Embellishing the main facade, there is also a sturdy bell tower built in 1579.

ENTRANCE: Free

HOW TO GET THERE:

by car: from Corso Umberto, turn onto Via Matrice that meets up with Via Gentile, the church is on the right.

by foot: Walk down Corso Umberto to Via Dante Alighieri, follow Via Dante to Via Gentile and turn left; or from Corso Umberto take Via Santi to Via Gentile and the church will be right in front of you.

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