The Church of San Giorgio, also known as the Duomo di San Giorgio, is a beautiful church in Ragusa Ibla – the ancient center of Ragusa, and one of the most important examples of Baroque architecture in Sicily.
Before the earthquake of 1693, the Church of San Giorgio stood in the eastern part of Ragusa Ibla, near the Hyblean Garden. Today, the only thing left from the ancient church, demolished in 1718, is the Portal of San Giorgio.
After the earthquake of 1693, which destroyed almost entirely the historical center of the town, it was decided to built a new church dedicated to Saint George on the place of the ancient Church of San Nicola.
However, the building of Ragusa Superiore – the modern part of the city, developed faster, and the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista, erected in 1694, became the main Catholic church of Ragusa, to the discontent of the inhabitants of Ragusa Ibla.
The project of the Church of San Giorgio was commissioned in 1738 to Rosario Gagliardi, an architect of Noto. The first stone was laid on June 28, 1739, as a plaque on the right side of the staircase reminds us, and the work began in 1744.
On October 5, 1775, the work on the facade was completed. The dome was designed and built in 1820 by the architect Carmelo Cultraro, modeled after the dome of the Pantheon in Paris.
On December 10, 1865, the municipality of Ragusa was divided in two, each with its own mayor, cathedral and patron saint: Ragusa Superiore with the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, and Ragusa Ibla with the Cathedral of San Giorgio, dedicated to Saint George.
The last modification of the church dates back to 1890, when the fence surrounding the staircase was built. The vestiges of the ancient Church of San Giorgio, including a magnificent 16th-century altar by the sculptor and architect Antonello Gagini, are preserved inside the adjacent Duomo Museum.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The location of the church at the end of a monumental staircase and the oblique position towards the square below accentuate the grandeur of the building.
The beautiful Baroque facade has three orders, the upper one being represented by the bell tower. Two pairs of volutes are placed between the different orders of the facade, with the statues of Saint George and Saint James between the first and the second order, and the statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul between the second order and the bell tower.
The interior, with a Latin cross plan, is divided into three naves by ten stone pillars. The carvings that decorate the cornice and the capitals of the pillars were made between 1779 and 1781 by the sculptors Giambattista Muccio and Giorgio Nobile. Above the crossing of the transept with the central nave, rises the neoclassical dome, resting on two rows of columns.
On the right aisle, we can find the Chapel of San Vito and the Chapel of San Basilio. In the niche above the right side entrance, there is a wooden statue sculpted by Rosario Bagnasco in 1874, depicting Saint George killing the dragon. Next, we have the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, with a painting of the Immaculate Conception by Vito D’Anna, and the Chapel of the Holy Family.
On the left aisle, there is the Chapel of Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi and the Chapel of the Rosary, with a canvas depicting the Madonna del Rosario. In the niche above the left side entrance, the Holy Ark is kept, the reliquary urn carried in procession during the celebrations held in honor of Saint George. Also on the left aisle, we can find the Chapel of the Guardian Angel, with another painting by Vito D’Anna, dated 1763, and the Chapel of Santa Gaudenzia.
In the transept, there is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the right absidiola, the Chapel of Saint Nicholas, the Chapel of the Holy Crucifix in the left absidiola, and the Chapel of Saint George, with a painting depicting Saint George on horseback in the act of killing the dragon, by Dario Guerci, dated 1866.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Church of San Giorgio is located about 2.3 kilometers from the Ragusa train station and about 3 kilometers from the city’s bus terminal. To easily find the church on foot, use the map below.