Sicily

Day 2 - Agrigento


Tourist flock to the Valley of the temples, but few visit the modern city of Agrigento. Unfortunately we only had 90 minutes to explore the old town with its network of narrow streets and alleyways. Being lunchtime, the cathedral was shut.


The modern city of Agrigento stands on the ridge high above the Valley of the Temples. Most tourists visit the Valley of the Temples but few spend time in Agrigento. It is a non touristy town and most of the population work in local government.

The acropolis of the ancient city of Akragas was built on the site of the present cathedral. Most of the inhabitants of the old town moved to the top of the ridge in an attempt to escape the threat of Moorish attacks.

 Agrigento

The cathedral is a Romanesque Gothic building dating from the C12th and is surrounded by the original medieval settlement with its network of narrow alleyways.  Much of the western half of the city suffered from Allied bombing in World War Two and there are many high rise buildings dating from the 1960s and 1970s.

Agrigento

Via Atenea is the main shopping street and lined with old medieval Palazzi.

Agrigento

Many of these are in poor condition as there is little money to restore them. The facades with their balconies and carved window surrounds may mask more modern buildings behind.

Agrigento

Steep stepped alleyways run off Via Atenea and lead to a network of narrow medieval streets lined with old Palazzi and old churches.

Agrigento    Agrigento

Agrigento

Being lunchtime most of the churches were shut. The Monastery of Santo Spirito is set in a small square at the top of a narrow passageway.  Founded in the 13th, this was once one of the most important churches in Argento. Now there are only eight elderly nuns living here and opening times are very restricted.

Agrigento

The only church which I found open was St Francis, set in a square below Via Atenea. This is a splendid Baroque building dating from the end of the C18th.

Church of St Francis, Agrigento

Inside it is a very light church with whitewashed walls and ceiling and gold decoration..

Church of St Francis, Agrigento

The main altar is set in a small apse at the east end. Above the altar is a statue of the Virgin bathed in blue light. The frescoes of the apse and ceiling are late C18th and painted by the Sicilian painter Domenico Provenzani of Palma di Montechiaro

Church of St Francis, Agrigento      Church of St Francis, Agrigento

Set in shallow niches along the side walls are side altars

Church of St Francis, Agrigento            Church of St Francis, Agrigento

The small font is set in a niche at the back of the north wall.

Church of St Francis, Agrigento

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