NAME: Chiesa della Madonna delle Grazie, or in local dialect, “Chiesa ra Maronna Grazia”
LOCATION: Viale Catania.
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: The church dates back to at least the 16th century.
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The earliest mention of this little church comes from a document written about the pastoral visit to Bronte by the Bishop of Monreale, Monsignor Torres (1574): «…visitavit cappellam extra oppidum S.tae Mariae Gratiarum, quam mandavit dealbari …». In the first decades of the 1900s, the Brontese historian Benedetto Radice also wrote: “On its festival day the clergy have the little church echoing with songs and prayer,” referring to the Madonna delle Grazie church. At one time, near the church, there was a fountain, which, as Radice recalls, “quenched the thirst of thousands of people, but since many years access of the fountain has been restricted to private use only.”
INTERIOR: The architecture of the church is not traditionally classical in style; instead, the floor plan is octagonal, making this aspect of it unique and unusual in this area. The simplicity of the interior allows the visitor to observe the architectural detail which, in and of itself, is quite distinct. For example, the umbrella vaulted roof, decorated with frescos that depict scenes of the life of Mary: the Marriage of the Virgin, the Annunciation, and the Nativity. These frescos date to 1896 and are the work of Nicolò Dinaro from the nearby town of Biancavilla. There are also three altars inside: one dedicated to Saints Cosmas and Damian, one to St. Dominic, and the high altar holds above it a statue of the Madonna delle Grazie, which is revealed to worshippers by sculpted cherubs that draw aside the drapery.
EXTERIOR: Above the portal, which is a rounded arch in basalt, there is a niche containing an image of the Madonna and Child. The exterior appearance of the church does not give any hints of a particular architectural or artistic style. The little church sits at the top of a slope and is at a recessed position with respect to the main road above it. At one time the backdrop of the church was a vista of the magnificent landscape of the entire Simeto valley, but today, the presence of modern buildings and private homes have radically changes the panorama, suffocating the little church with the cement of modernity.
ENTRANCE: The church is no longer open to the public; the structure is considered unsafe.
HOW TO GET THERE:
You can admire the church from the exterior only. You can arrive either by car or by foot on Viale Catania.