Church of Santa Maria di Betlem in Modica
The Church of Santa Maria di Betlem is one of the three ancient collegiate churches of Modica and dates back to the 14th century.
The church was built in place or for the integration of four small churches and the current appearance is due to the interventions carried out from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.
The façade, with two orders, marked by a string course frame is the result of two construction phases, the first order is to be placed between the second sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and is in Renaissance style, while the second, built in the Nineteenth century, it is in neoclassical style. Of particular interest is a limestone lunette, the Lunette del Berlon from the 15th-16th century, which represents one of the few surviving remains of one of the pre-existing churches. It is located along the left side elevation and is a valuable bas-relief by unknown local artists depicting an Adoration of the Shepherds. It is believed to be the probable arcosolium of the portal of the Church of San Maria di Berlon.
Inside the church there is one of the most significant artistic testimonies in late Gothic style of the entire territory , the Palatine Chapel , also known as Cabrera Chapel . The room is square in shape, the base of the dome is octagonal in shape defined by pendentives at the four corners, the dome ends with a skylight. The entrance arch has Arabic, Norman and Catalan decorative elements, which make it the most beautiful monuments that architecture has produced in Sicily at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, even giving its name to a style artistic, the Chiaramonte Gothic . In the rich portal there are five semi-columns and small pillars and elegant slender columns with zig-zag and floral motifs. The capitals are decorated with masks and with sixteenth-century grotesque motifs. Shields and sacred symbols are carved in the arch keys: starting from the bottom there are a lion's head, a lyre, a trophy of arms, a shield with a seven-pointed star, a winged putto, a lamb inside a surmounted shell from a crown. Inside, at the top, four large angular pendentives with degrading frames, shell motifs and niches, as well as mannerist masks.
Of particular interest are also: the large canvas of the Assumption of the Virgin, painted by Gian Battista Ragazzi in 1713; the permanent monumental nativity scene in terracotta, made by the masters of Caltagirone.
At the entrance to the church a line recalls the level reached by the water during the terrible flood that hit the city in 1902.