NAME: Chiesa di San Silvestro , in dialect, “A chiesa ra Batìa” and the Monastero di Santa Scolastica.
LOCATION: Piazza Spedalieri.
DATE OF CONSTRUCTON: The precise date is unknown but the church was built some time between 1535 and 1548.
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Following the construction of the Church of San Silvestro, the convent of Santa Scolastica was begun next door to the church, and was finished in 1616, as evidenced in the lintel over the door. The church was later incorporated into the monastery and was no longer consecrated to St. Sylvester but rather to St. Scholastica. Some of the town’s elders still recall the so-called “ruota dei projetti” that was once outside the convent. This is where unwanted newborns could be “projetti” (cast out), left as orphans. The mechanism consisted of a small door inside which there was a rotating platform on which the newborn would be placed. Such “wheels” helped deter the abandonment of newborns in the countryside where they could be devoured by dogs or other wild animals. The “wheel” also allowed the cloistered nuns in the convent to maintain some form of contact with the external world. Part of the convent was destroyed in the earthquake of 1818, and the rest of it was torn down in 1935. With the demolition of the convent the Church returned to being called San Silvestro.
INTERIOR: The single nave structure contains five altars:
- Upon entering, to the right, the first altar and statue is for St. Benedict;
- Next, follows the statue of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.
- Upon entering, to the left are the statue and altar St. Joseph and the Christ Child.
- The following is a Chapel to the Crucified Christ (in wood, 18th century); it is adorned with graceful twisted columns.
- The next altar is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
On the main altar there is a magnificent painting of St. Mary of Egypt, by Pietro Novelli, a copy of the original in Palermo. The painting depicts the Saint kneeling, with the assistance of an angel, to receive Communion from the Abbot Zosimo; above, angels watch from on high. To the right of the altar there is a painting by Giuseppe Tomasio (1664) depicting St. Benedict. To the left of Benedict are St. Placidus and St. Gertrude, while on the right are the Madonna and Child with Sts. Scholastica and Maurus, and kneeling before the Madonna and Child we can see the Pontiffs St. Gregory the Great and St. Agatho.
On the high altar there is also a painting by Giuseppe Patricolo from 1830 that represents the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin and the Apostles.
In the vaulted ceiling above, there is a fresco depicting the Assumption of the Virgin dated 1827, by the hand of Giuseppe Dinaro and, perhaps by the same artist, there is a painting of Sacrifice of Noah upon exiting the Ark in front of the altar, over the choir loft.
EXTERIOR: The External structure of the Church of San Silvestro has remained intact over time. Nothing remains of the nun’s abbey except two windows with rusty iron gratings; these are visible above the entrance to the church. The main portal to the church is simple and linear and was built at the end of the 1700s in local basalt, sculpted with Renaissance-style uprights and cornices. Also worthy of note, is the church bell with its date of casting, 1623.
HOW TO GET THERE:
by car: from Corso Umberto, you can arrive by car in piazza Spedalieri.
by foot: from Corso Umberto, walk one block north of Collegio Capizzi.