Petralia Sottana

 

This mountain town in the Parco delle Madonne (MadonieNational Park) is the lower, and today the more important, of the twin towns of Petralia Sottana and Petralia Soprana.   The latter is the older centre, the ancient Petra of the Romans, with less than half the population of Sottana and situated on the eastern edge of the same broad ridge.  Sottana is a little over 3,000 ft. above sea level.   Petralia Sottana appears to have started in the Middle Ages as a feudal dependency of Soprana.

 

The finest buildings in Petralia Sottana are the churches.   The Cathedral, or Matrice, is baroque outside and neo-classic inside.   The main western portal, the cupola and the campanile are fine examples of the rugged, unadorned baroque of Sicilian mountain towns generally.   Inside are paintings by Giuseppe Salerno and Gagini.

 

Along the Corso Agliata, there is the church of St. Francis of Assisi.   Although dilapidated inside it is still a splendid example of Sicilian baroque art.   Inside there is a profusion of frescoes, sculptured friezes and swags in the Sicilian 18th century style, and a truly magnificent baroque pulpit in gilded wood against the north wall.

 

The small 15th century church of the Holy Trinity, attached to what used to be a nunnery, contains the most important piece of decorative art in Petralia Sottana:  a magnificent stone reredos by Gian Domenico Gagini.   Made out of local stone, it depicts the life of Christ from the Annunciation to the Resurrection in twenty three bas-reliefs.

 

The centre of social life in Petralia is its main street, the Corso, with its shops, cafés and churches.