In 1693 Sicily was devastated by a great earthquake. The cities of the south-east – Ragusa, Modica, Noto among them – were destroyed completely.
In the wake of the disaster came an extraordinary period of reconstruction. Not for the poor, of course, who continued to live in primitive hovels at the edge of cities. But for the nobility, and for the Church, rebuilding the cities became an occasion for the flaunting of wealth. The result was a series of dazzling new cities, built above or near to the old devastated ones, and expressing a new, peculiarly Sicilian form of the baroque.
Noto, Modica and Ragusa are all little gems of Sicilian baroque. They are reminders both of the heights to which human artistry can ascend – and the social divisions upon which such artistry is often created.