A church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, which stood on the western part of Ragusa Ibla, the ancient town of Ragusa, was seriously damaged by the earthquake of 1693. One year later, on April 15, 1694, the church was rebuilt in the center of Ragusa Superiore, the new town of Ragusa. On August 16, the same year, the church was opened for worship.
The short time in which the church was built indicates that the first building was small and inadequate for the needs of the new expanding city district. Therefore, in 1718, a new larger church was begun, under the direction of two architects from Acireale, Giuseppe Recupero and Giovanni Arcidiacono. The new church was solemnly consecrated on May 31, 1778, a ceremony led by the bishop of Syracuse, Giovanni Battista Alagona.
In 1783, the dome was built, and covered on the outside with copper foils at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1848, the paving was renewed with stone slabs, embellished with geometric limestone inlays.
On December 10, 1865, the municipality of Ragusa was divided in two, each with its own mayor, cathedral and patron saint. The Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista was the cathedral of Ragusa Superiore, while the Cathedral of San Giorgio, dedicated to Saint George, was the cathedral of Ragusa Ibla. On May 6, 1950, the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista became the cathedral of the entire diocese of Ragusa.
Restoration works for the church were carried out between 1992 and 1995. Since 2002, the church was included by UNESCO among the monuments in the World Heritage List, as part of the Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto.
The majestic facade, rich in sculptures and decorations, is divided into five parts by large columns, on tall bases, and by characteristic ashlars pilasters that are also repeated on the sides of the building. The facade is enriched by three portals, of which the central one is decorated with columns and statues representing the Immaculate, St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.
In front of the church is a large churchyard, elevated above the square below and surrounded by a stone balustrade built in 1745. On the left side of the facade, stands the bell tower that rises about fifty meters above the ground.
The interior has a Latin cross plan, delimited by columns with capitals richly sculpted by the master builder Carmelo Cultraro in 1731 and subsequently gilded.
The vaults of the aisles and the presbytery were decorated with golden rococo-style stuccoes between 1776 and 1777 by Giuseppe Gianforma and his son, Gioacchino, who also made large niches in the transept walls surrounded by statues.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista is located about 800 meters from the Ragusa railway station and about 1.7 kilometers away from the Ragusa bus terminal. To find it on foot, use the map below.