A first church was built on this place prior to the 7th century, and dedicated to Saint Peter. Some historical sources claim that the church was the first religious building in Modica.
The decision to expand the church appears in a papal bull of Pope Eugene III, from 1150. The church and the adjacent Benedictine convent are also mentioned in a document dated March 1217.
In 1454, the convent was demolished, leaving room for a larger church. Around the same time, due to the fact that another church dedicated to Saint Peter was built in the lower part of Modica – the current Duomo di San Pietro, the church on the Pizzo Hill was dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist.
After the earthquake of 1542, the church was rebuilt to its current size. Then, after the earthquake of 1693, which seriously damaged the building, the church was rebuilt again, in Baroque style. The works lasted from the first decades of the 18th century, until 1839, when the architect Salvatore Toscano completed the second and the third order of the facade and the monumental staircase which descends to the San Giovanni Square, in front of the church.
The facade was slightly damaged by the earthquake of 1848, which led to the decision, in 1893, to modify the facade in Neoclassical style. The last modification of the facade was made by the master builder Giuseppe Garofalo Giannone, after a design by the architect Salvatore Rizza di Avola.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The church, divided in three naves separated by square pillars, is rich in decorative stuccoes and frescoes. Here, is preserved the statuary group of Addolorata from the 16th century, composed of the statues of the Virgin Mary and Martha crying for Jesus, who just died in the arms of Mary Magdalene.
The monumental staircase in front of the church is delimited on the sides by 26 pillars, which in the past held as many statues. Today, only three statues are still present.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Church of San Giovanni Evangelista is located in the highest point of Modica Alta (Upper Modica), about 2.3 kilometers from the Modica railway station. To find the church on foot, use the map below.