NAME: Chiesa dell’Annunziata, in local dialect: “Chiesa ra Maronna ‘nunziata”
LOCATION: Piazza Antonio Gagini.
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: sometime between 1505 and 1595.
HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE: According to some historical documents, work began on the Sanctuary before the unifications of the farmstead communities, that is, before 1535. According to marriage records, we can determine that the church was active as early as 1505, even though many scholars believe that that date is supposed to be read as 1595. If that is true, then the church would not have been built before the arrival of the Holy Image to Bronte in 1543. With the unification of the 24 Casali, the church and, above all, the image of the Virgin Annunciate became symbols of unification for the entire city. In fact, the Madonna Annunziata was named patron of the city of Bronte; she is celebrated and honored especially during the month of August.
INTERIOR: The rectangular, single nave church is covered with a polychrome coffered roof. Along the sides of the nave there are eight altars and two chapels, positioned one in front of the other.
Entering, on the right-hand side, the altars are dedicated to:
- The Navitiy of Jesus.
- Martin of Tours with a beautiful painting of San Martino.
- Christat the Column.
- Ignatius of Loyola, set within a Renaissance-style arch, decorated with a 18th century statue.
On the left-hand side, the altars are dedicated to:
- Our Lady of Graces.
- Jesus and Mary.
- Michael Archangel set within a Baroque-style arch.
The high altar is dedicated to the Virgin Annunciate. The Renaissance sculptor, Antonio (Antonello) Gagini (1478–1536) of Palermo created a marble group of the Virgin Annunciate and the Angel. There are several legends about this statue. One tells that when the church was built, the statue of the Madonna Annunziata was placed in such a way that its back was toward Mt. Etna, but every morning, when the faithful entered the church, they would find the statue turned around and facing the powerful volcano. This manifestation was interpreted by the citizens of Bronte as the statue’s desire to keep a watch over and protect the city located at the foot of the slopes of Etna. Another legend explains why the Angel kneeling at Mary’s feet has only one wing. The story goes that the sculptor Antonio Gagini who was commissioned to make the statue, allowed his apprentice to sculpt the angel. As the work was coming to completion, Gagini was struck by
the incredibly expressive and magnificent face of the Angel, and was apparently so jealous that ruined the statue by breaking on of its wings.
EXTERIOR: The facade of the church is plain except for the lovely Renaissance-style sandstone portal, surmounted by a lunette, and, above these, an elegant window with tympanum. The decorations in sculpted relief surrounding the portal depict little angels and demons among floral motifs. The decoration in the lunette above the doors depicts the arrival of Gagini’s statue in the square in front of the church. Particularly elegant is the bell tower which dates back to 1625; its massive proportions bestows a sense of balance and grace to the entire complex. The names of the 24 Casali that were united in 1535 are sculpted in the bronze doors of the church.
HOW TO GET THERE:
By car: By way of Via Santi (there may be parking in the piazza in front of the Santuario).
by foot: the shortest path from Corso Umberto (center of town) is to take via Santi to the intersection with Via Angelo Gabriele, which ends in Piazza Gagini .