Basilica of San Sebastiano in Acireale
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The Basilica of San Sebastiano is the most important monument in Acireale, declared a national monument. In December 1990, Pope John Paul II elevated it to the dignity of a minor basilica.
In 1577, when a terrible plague epidemic struck the Aci area, the statue of St. Sebastian was kept on the altar of an oratory built in the early 15th century as an object of supplications by the faithful. The city remained immune to the contagion and the devotees, certain of the Saint's intercession, increased to the point that they could no longer be welcomed in the church. It was thus decided to build a new church in the same place where the oratory of the brotherhood of San Sebastiano stood. The first construction site was opened in 1609 and the church completed in 1644 with subsidies from the town hall and donations from the faithful. The temple was largely renovated after the earthquake of 1693, between 1699 and 1705, assuming its current appearance. The church was elevated to a collegiate church with a papal bull of November 20, 1924.
The façade, designed by Angelo Bellofiore, inlays by Diego and Giovanni Flavetta, has several orders and has a frieze with fourteen putti holding festoons. The church is preceded by a balustrade built in 1754 by Giovan Battista Marini to a design by Pietro Paolo Vasta, enriched with statues depicting characters from the Old Testament: Judith, Jael, David, Joshua, Moses, Aaron, Judas Maccabee, Gideon, Samson.
The interior, in the shape of a Latin cross, is rich in frescoes by Pietro Paolo Vasta, made between 1732 and 1736, in the transept and in the choir with some scenes from the life of the saint, in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament with scenes from the life of Christ, and in the drum of the dome. Prior to the earthquake of 1693, sources report the existence in the church of paintings by Baldassarre Grasso, master of Vasta. The left side chapel is frescoed by Alessandro D'Anna.
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