MODICA:a town with one hundred churches

It is a town with one hundred bells and one hundred churches which in the fourteenth century for its power and beauty was a kingdom inside the kingdom. The County was founded on march 25th 1296 when Manfredi di Chiaramonte was given the kingdom after the King of Sicily Federico II was crowned. The golden age of the County managed to dim even the power and the magnificence of the Kingdom of Sicily. The works of art are what is left today of that economic power and glory. Today Modica is one of the kingdoms of baroque art and of all the artistic jewels of Sicily.
Placido Garrafa wrote: "Modica looks like an eagle – everybody knows it as Motuca for its ancient story, some think its origin is unknown because it is too old, and the beginning of its foundation is lost in memo
ry." The town is full of architectural beauties, imposing and wide; in the town centre it is crowned by a steep spur, where the Castle of the Counts stands out. It stretches out in three Y shaped valleys, this geomorphologic characteristic distinguishes it and makes the views from above very spectacular. If driving by night on the Ponte Guerrieri, on the road the links the town to Ragusa, you look downward, you will see something which resembles a splendid crib. Houses rise in terraces, join in the slopes and almost hidden gardens often appear between them.

The churches of St. Peter and St. Georges

Two churches out of one hundred are worth mentioning in Modica. The late baroque church of St. Peter in Corso Umberto is the most important work of the lower quarter of the town. Here we find the same magnificence as in Noto, in the long flight of step bordered by the statues of the twelve Apostles. At the top of the flight of step, the fašade of the church reveals a particular model of decorative conception. The interior of the church, with a nave and two lateral aisles, preserves sublimes works like the statues of St. Peter and the paralytic by Benedetto Civiletti and the wooden statues of Pietro Padula.
The church of St. Georges, has an imposing and stately fašade too, at the top of a slope that forms a nice natural balcony. From the top of the 250 steps you can enjoy the plasticity of the three orders fašade. Inside the church there is a silver urn containing some relics of St. Georges, donated by the church to the powerful Chiaramonte family. The story of this dynasty and of the province is the same story of the county which this year has celebrated the seventh centenary of its foundation.

History and culture

The legend says that Modica was founded by Hercules the Egyptian. It is sure that the Siculi chose it for its singular position that made it an impregnable fortress. The Ispica’s gully, the magnificent and spectacular canyon carved in the Hyblaean tableland is partly in the rural territory of Modica. So, the story of the gully also belongs to the story of Modica.
Its ancient name was Motyca; its power, dimmed by Greek and Byzantine domination, broke out with all its vitality during the Arabian domination, the Arabs called it Mohac. With the Chiaramonte dynasty domination, Modica played a leading role in the Reign. Many works of art show today the signs of the Gothic-Chiaramonte style of the Counts of Modica: the church of the Madonna del Carmine, Palazzo Lena and the church of Ges¨. The convent annexed to this latter church was built to solemnize the marriage between Anna Cabrera and Henriquez. The wonderful internal cloister has been declared a national monument.
The town which is the birth place of the famous poet Salvatore Quasimodo, also boasts one of the most interesting ethnical and anthropological museums in Sicily.
"The Museum of Art and Popular Traditions", dedicated to S. A. Guastella, is on the first floor of the ancient convent of the Mercedari fathers, an eighteenth century elegant and sober palace in a late baro
que and rococo style. The museum is a mirror of ancient crafts and rural civilisation, the cradle of local traditions. The County was, and is still today, an inexhaustible source of very ancient traditions, religious rites and customs where things sacred and profane, faith and superstition, merge.