NAME: “Cunnicella” in local dialect (from the word “cornice” – frame).

LOCATION: scattered throughout the streets of the city.

DESCRIPTION: Votive Aediculae are small, square or rectangular—sometimes arched—niches, or small tabernacles.  You can find them carved into the exterior stone walls of private homes, or in precise public areas of the city.  These tiny shrines are often dedicated to the Madonna and contain frescos or statuettes.  They are protected by little iron gates, or behind glass and wooden frames.  These micro-architectural works have been constructed in a variety of styles, from classical to Baroque, and are composed of various materials: lava rock, sandstone or marble.  In most cases the lines are simple and linear and are built with humble materials, in accordance with popular culture.  They usually contain a small shelf to hold vases of flowers given as an offering to the Madonna.  The maintenance of the niches is the responsibility of the homeowners, but since the depopulation of the historic center, many of the aediculae are beginning to show signs of decay and abandonment. The origins of these shrines can be traced to when the community of Bronte, a town largely dependent on agriculture, felt the need to express their devotion toward the Virgin as a sort of prayer for a good harvest and protection. In the past, beyond their purely religious and protective functions, the votive niches were a place where family and friends of the neighborhood could gather to celebrate events of the liturgical calendar, or to pray together.  Today, these occasions are quite rare, but there are still some older members of the community that utilize the shrines for this purpose.

Among the larger, more well-maintained, or artistically significant aediculae we mention those in:

  • Via Madonna di Loreto.
  • Via Scafiti.
  • Via Stesicoro (Santa Croce).
  • Piazza Carcerebue.
  • Piazza Cappuccini.
  • Via Palermo.
  • Viale Catania.
  • Via messina.