Churches in Agrigento
Commanded, from the top of the hill, by the old Norman cathedral dedicated to San Gerlando, the Bishop’s palace and the Seminary, Girgenti was the city of priests and passing bells. From morning to night, the thirty churches exchanged, in long, slow peals, the note of mourning and the call to prayer…
Cathedral of San Gerlando : “At the very top, the main church adorned with episcopal see, sacred since 1301 to Saint Gerlando first bishop of the city after he had driven out the Saracens and was chosen by the citiziens (of Agrigento) as the only patron- saint: attached to it, it is the large and very decent bishop’s palace. Not far from there, on the highest place, stands a castle, once well fortified and built, as they say, by Gualtieri successor of Gerlando, against the raids of the Saracens” .
Church of Santa Maria dei Greci: ““The Church of St. Mary of the Greeks finally built on the ruins of a temple attributed to Jupiter Polieo only by tradition. On the northen side from the outside, one can observe the first row of stones that made up the fluted shaft of the columns; the road overlay covers part of the stylobate but with the steps well preserved. Polieno tells us that having given the Agrigentans to Phalaris sums to accomplish it, he used them to become the tyrant of the city”
Church of Santo Spirito and adjoining Monastero (Bataranni): “Of the great monasteries of nuns the most notable is called the Great Abbey, of the Cistercian order, in the Church of Santo Spirito, clearly ascribed to the Chiaramonte family by Fazello and Pirri, but, quite rightly, attributed by Inveges to Marchisia Prefoglio, mother of Manfredi Count of Modica, as you can infer from the foundation chart of 1299. At the beginning, the nuns were subject to the abbot of the Casamari monastery , now the Bishop is responsible for its care”
Church of San Domenico: “In the same suburb (Rabatello), Federico Chiaramonte and his brothers built, in 1315, a monastery for the monks of S. Dominic, which stands today inside the walls by the main square, not only for the accommodation but for the regular observance and eminent doctrine of the monks”
Church of San Pietro: “Remarkable, amongst the churches, are the parish churches of San Michele and San Pietro, which have their own parish priest”
Church of Santa Croce: “In the suburb (Rabato), below the Cathedral, has as a master chaplain one of the minor canonicals who is in charge for one year”
Church of San Giuseppe and Oratory of San Filippo Neri: Finally the Oratory of San Filippo Neri, built in 1636 by the pious priest Antonio Antinoro in the very old but small Church of San Giuseppe. Enlarged, today beautifully stands not far from the main street..
*In his historical novel “The old and the young” Luigi Pirandello thus alludes to the dark religious atmosphere of Girgenti and refers to 30 churches. Churches and monasteries of Girgenti are often the backdrop for stories and novels of the illustrious Agrigentan writer. However, a more detailed description of the city churches can be found in the Topographical Dictionary of Vito Amico (translated by Vincenzo Mortillaro).