NAME: Chiesa Madonna della Catena, in the local dialect, «’a Maronna ‘a Catina»
LOCATION: Corso Umberto, 112.
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: The construction of the Church began in 1569 and was finished in 1601.
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Regarding the origins of the name, Benedetto Radice wrote «the title, Madonna of the Chain, came from a chain near the port of Palermo, that closed off the port to enemy ships». The church is located in Corso Umberto elevated above the level of the street. A long ramp of stairs in local basalt leads to the entrance of the church; it was built in 1870, during which time the Corso was being restructured and straightened.
The Church is dedicated to St. Mary of the Chain, or St. Mary of the Snow (ad nives), to which the people of Bronte show a particular devotion, and to whom, over the centuries, the farmers have prayed and asked for protection against the drought that would threaten their crops.
Until 1582, the gallows used to stand in front of the church, but it was then transferred to the “scialandro” (entrance to the city).
INTERIOR: The interior of the church is a very simple, single nave, rectangular space. A small chapel, to the left as soon as you enter, was restructured to create a small choir loft. The apse has a barrel vault above which is decorated with frescos and gilding by the painter Nicolò Dinaro. The last restoration of the interior and the ceiling was in 1988. There are five altars:
- entering, on the right is the chapel of the Madonna of Mercy.
- next, the altar of San Filippo Neri;
- on the left, the altar of the Five Wounds
- next, on the left, the altar of St. Stephen.
Placed upon the presbytery, in a niche on the high altar, we find the painted, marble statue of St. Mary of the Chain, or St. Mary of the Snow (1600 circa).
EXTERIOR: A beautiful main door with a curvilinear tympanum in basalt welcomes the visitor. Above the door there are three simple bifore (mullioned windows) topped with small arches, which are also in basalt. To the right of the facade is an imposing bell tower that houses and enormous bell dated 1777. The door of the church is the work of local sculptor Mimmo Girbino. Next door to the church is the Piccolo Seminario, a school for children, which was founded in 1922 by Father Giuseppe Salanitri; there is also the old Oratory of San Carlo founded in the 16th century. Originally the Piccolo Seminario was once the seat of the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, begun in the early 1600s. For centuries the Oratorian Fathers provided elementary education to the poor. Two famous people studied here: Nicola Spedalieri e il Ven. Ignazio Capizzi.
ENTRANCE: Free, but the church is not always open
HOW TO GET THERE:
by car: the church in located on Via Umberto (parking is available along the Corso).
by foot: walk down Corso Umberto I to n. 112.