NAME: Chiesa di San Vito
LOCATION: Piazza San Vito, Bronte.
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The small church of San Vito stands atop the highest part of the City of Bronte. Despite the fact that this little known church is one of the oldest buildings in the town, it also stands as a reminder of significant historical event. The church of San Vito opens onto a large panoramic square; it is characterized by a single nave, and the elevated portal is reached via a tri-faceted ramp of stairs in local basalt stone. The earliest documentation of this church dates back to a pastoral visit in 1589 and to a royal decree in 1592. According to the Bronte-born historian, Benedetto Radice (1854-1931), the construction of the church had very humble origins given that the task of building a new convent was under the care of the Lesser Friars of the Franciscan Order. Since that period the church has undergone many changes: in 1643 the building was completely restructured, in 1870 it was restored and the interior was decorated, in 1880 the apse was redecorated with the gilding and the friezes (that still adorn the church today) and, in 1894, the balustrade around the high altar was added.
INTERIOR: The rectangular, single nave interior has an apse at the alter end and a choir loft over the entrance. The church is characterized by its rich gilding, precious friezes and the great organ that sits atop marble columns. Across the architrave of the main portal you can read the inscription “Pax et bonum” (Peace and salvation). Unfortunately there are no documents that can provide a precise date construction of the choir loft. The loft is composed of a vault resting on marble columns. One should note the wooden choir stalls, which are adorned with sculpted columns and capitals with a cornice above decorated in intarsia, or wooden inlay. The church has seven altars; the three on the right are dedicated to St. Anthony, St. Vitus and St. Pascal, while the three of the left to St. Joseph, St. Francis, and to the Holy Cross. The high altar in polychrome marble is consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin Mary.
EXTERIOR: along the length of church one notes the imposing main portal in black basalt, decorated with floral motifs carved in low relief, and the central staircase, also in lava rock. Next to the convent, at one time, there was a small cemetery (camposanto) where the poor were buried. The name of the street that runs along the convent is called Campo dei Fiori (Field of flowers) and takes its name from the camposanto. Next to the stairs you can see a commemorative monument to the five victims of the Bronte Massacre of 1860. The monument was erected by the City in 1985.
HOW TO GET THERE:
by car you can arrive and park just a few dozen meter from the piazza
by foot: from Corso Umberto you must climb up via Santi for about 500mt.