The Cathedral of San Nicolò, dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra, is the beautiful Baroque cathedral of Noto, located at the top of a wide staircase, on the northern part of Piazza del Municipio (Town Hall Square).
The construction of the church began in 1694, one year after the terrible earthquake of Val di Noto, which completely destroyed the ancient Noto, located about 8 kilometers north of the current city. The church was completed in 1703, and it was opened for worship in a solemn ceremony.
In the second half of the 18th century, the original unfinished facade of the church, built by Rosario Gagliardi, was remodeled by the architect Vincenzo Sinatra, and completed at the end of the 18th century. In the 19th century, a new dome was built to replace the previous one, deteriorated by the earthquakes from the 18th century, giving the cathedral its current appearance.
After the earthquake of December 13, 1990, the church suffered some structural damage, but no restoration measures were taken. On the evening of March 13, 1996, due to a serious defect of the pillars of the central nave, the first of the right-hand pylons that supported the dome collapsed to the ground, and then, in a domino effect, the dome followed, along with the entire right nave, the central nave and the right transept. Fortunately, there were no victims, because at that time the church was closed to the public.
In January 2000, the reconstruction work began. At first, the new pillars on the right were rebuilt without any use of reinforced concrete, which represented, in fact, the defect of the initial ones. Then, the pillars of the left nave were demolished and rebuilt. Subsequently, the central nave, the right aisle, the buttresses and the longitudinal arches returned to their former splendor. The last chapter in the reconstruction of the cathedral was the building of the new dome, almost identical to the original.
11 years after the collapse, on June 18, 2007, the church was reopened for worship.
The facade of the church, in limestone, is an example of late Baroque style, with eclectic elements. It stands on the top of a spectacular stairway dating back to the 18th century and renovated in the early 19th century. The facade has side towers and is crowned by four late 18th-century statues depicting the evangelists, executed by the sculptor Giuseppe Orlando.
In the first order of the facade, flanked by slender Corinthian columns, we can find three majestic portals. The central one is made of bronze and represents episodes from the life of Saint Conrad of Piacenza, work by the Sicilian sculptor Giuseppe Pirrone. The relics of Saint Conrad (Corrado, in Italian), the patron saint of Noto, are housed in the cathedral.
The interior, with a Latin cross plan and three naves, of which the central one is larger than the two lateral ones, undergone numerous alterations since its construction, reaching its present appearance only in 1899, when the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament was built.
The interior was frescoed by Nicola Arduino from Turin and Armando Baldinelli from Bologna, between 1950 and 1956, but after the reconstruction from the 2000s, it was restored to its original whiteness.
TIP: The best place to admire the Cathedral of San Nicolò is across the square, from the terrace of the second floor of the Ducezio Palace. The entrance fee is 2€.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Cathedral of Saint Nicholas is located in the historical center of the city, in a pedestrian area, about 1.3 kilometers away from the Noto railway station. To find the church on foot, use the map below.