The church is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but also to Santa Venera, patron saint of Acireale. The relics of the Saint are kept in a magnificent chapel of the right transept.
A first structure on this site was built during the 15th century, and it consisted of a single chapel with three walls, where a painting of the Annunciation was venerated.
In the 16th century, the chapel was demolished, and a new, larger church was built, with aisles and a bell tower.
The construction of the current Cathedral was approved by the Municipality of Acireale on October 8, 1597, and the work started the following year. The whole complex undergone continuous extensions and modifications since 1598, until it reached its present appearance in 1889.
In 1693, during the earthquake of Val di Noto, the structure suffered significant damage. The vaults of the transept collapsed, the entire roof was compromised, the dome cracked, and the bell tower damaged.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The facade of the Cathedral was built starting from the 17th century. The sculptural group in the niche above the marble portal, representing the Annunciation, was made between 1668 and 1672 by Placido Blandamonte in Messina, and transported by sea to Acireale.
The two bell towers on the sides of the facade, although similar, are not contemporary. The bell tower to the right of the facade was built in Gothic-Norman style before 1544, and also served as a lookout tower. The other bell tower, the rose window, the loggia with columns and the remaining decorations of the facade are in Neo-Gothic style, and were made between 1887 and 1889 on a project by Sebastiano Ittar.
The dome, based on a project by the architect Paolo Amico, was begun in 1655 and completed only in 1732.
The church has a Latin cross plan, with three naves. The interior was modified in the 18th century in Baroque style.
The vault of the central nave, decorated by Giuseppe Sciuti in 1907, is marked by scenes depicting the Orchestra of the Angels, the Choir of the Virgins, the Glory of the Angels carrying the symbols of Santa Venera, the Annunciation, Faith, and the Eternal Father with Prophets.
On the transept floor, diagonally, there is a sundial made by Christian Heinrich Friedrich Peters in 1843, adorned with the symbols of the zodiac by Giovanni Francesco Boccaccini.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Cathedral of Maria Santissima Annunziata is located about 2.1 kilometers away from the Acireale railway station. The closest bus stop is near the church, in Piazza del Duomo, on the bus Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4.
However, the buses have a very low frequency in Acireale, it’s difficult to find the timetables and often there are delays and sudden cancellations of journeys, so the best solution to get to the railway station is a taxi.