Church of Santa Maria La Stella in Militello Val di Catania
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The Church of Santa Maria la Stella in Militello Val Di Catania, also known as the Sanctuary of Santa Maria la Stella, dedicated to the main patron saint of the city, is located at the top of a scenic staircase overlooking the square of the same name.
It was built starting from 1722, replacing the ancient church of Santa Maria della Stella destroyed by the earthquake of 1693, it was opened for worship in 1741.
The baroque facade, rich in carvings, is flanked by a mighty Bell tower. The design of the facade is due to the architect Giuseppe Ferrara, active in the Val di Noto in the years after the earthquake; the valuable eighteenth-century stuccos that decorate the interior are by the artist Onofrio Russo da Policoro. The elegant pillars and internal arches have the same profile as those of the contemporary church of the Santissimo Crocifisso di Noto.
Of considerable value is the glazed terracotta altarpiece by the Florentine sculptor Andrea della Robbia depicting the Nativity of Jesus from 1487 , from the Church of Santa Maria la Vetere.
Among the works kept inside the church, noteworthy are: the precious statue in wood and hemp of the Madonna della Stella from 1618, object of a special cult for centuries and devotion; a grandiose altarpiece by Olivio Sozzi depicting the Nativity of Mary, framed by a wooden machine from 1753; the seventeenth-century wooden statue of Christ on the column attributed by some critics to the friar Umile da Petralia; numerous valuable canvases and rich sequin frames such as the one depicting the Martyrdom of San Bartolomeo of 1694; the stone sarcophagi of the feudal lords of the city of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, testimony of the Royal Patronage which the church enjoyed until 1788.
The Sacristy-Treasury of the Sanctuary also preserves: sacred silver furnishings from the parish church and its branch churches; the silver and gold trousseau of the statue of the Madonna della Stella; ex voto in gold; silk and gold vestments and damask decorations; sacred images including a 16th century Saint Paul; the sarcophagus of Blasco II Barresi notable work attributed to Domenico Gagini from 1465; the monumental fifteenth-century polyptych depicting St. Peter in the chair and stories from his life, variously attributed to Antonello da Messina or to the Master of the Cross in Piazza Armerina; a painting by Vito D'Anna depicting the Immaculate Conception as well as other valuable paintings such as a Madonna della Stella by Giacinto Platania.
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