23 October 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (148) 23 October 2023

Saint Nicholas Cathedral has been the cathedral of the Diocese of Noto since the diocese was formed in Sicily in 1844 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and the week began with the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XX, 22 October 2023).

Before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

My reflections on the Week of Prayer for World Peace concluded yesterday, and my reflections each morning for the rest of this week follow this pattern:

1, A reflection on a church or cathedral in Sicily;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The High Altar, sanctuary and apse in Noto Cathedral … Noto is known as the capital of Sicilian Baroque architecture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Noto, Sicily:

The cathedral or duomo in Noto in the south-east corner of Sicily is known in Italian as the the Cattedrale di San Nicolò di Mira, has been the cathedral of the Diocese of Noto since the diocese was establishment in 1844, and is dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra.

Noto is known as the capital of Sicilian Baroque architecture, and the cathedral is in the Sicilian Baroque style, with a large central dome over the crossing. After the devastating earthquake in Sicily in 1693, building work on the Church of Saint Nicholas began in the early 18th century.

The long interval between the beginning of the building, to designs by Rosario Gagliardi, and its completion in 1776 under the supervision of Bernardo Labisi, probably accounts for some of the peculiarities and inconsistencies of design, and the introduction of Neo-Classical elements.

The three principal doorways are revivals of 15th-century architecture, based on the style of Vignola or Domenico Fontana. The large central window of the west front, with its ‘ears’ and curvilinear tympanum borrows from the repertoire of Andrea Pozzo and resembles work elsewhere in Noto by Francesco Paolo Labisi, such as the Chiesa del Carmine.

The composition of the façade has been compared to those of the Church of Notre-Dame, Versailles, and the pre-revolutionary Church of Saint-Roch in Paris. Work on the façade, to designs by Gagliardi ca 1740, started in late 1767. The nearby campanile bears the date 1768.

The dome was rebuilt twice In the 19th century after collapses caused by earthquakes, and ended up as a Neo-Classical construction.

Much refurbishment was carried out in the 1950s, but these works were not entirely successfully, including the work on the trompe-l’œil of the vertical elements and the tempera decoration of the vaults by the painters Arduino and Baldinelli, as well as major alterations to the high altar and the organ. The original pitched roof of the nave was replaced by a heavy loft of Roman brick and concrete.

The poor building work and alterations in the 1950s, structural weaknesses caused by an earthquake in 1990 may have caused the collapse of a large part of the cathedral on 13 March 1996, a large part of the cathedral collapsed: four of the piers of the southern side of the nave, one of the four piers supporting the dome, the entire roof and vault of the nave, three quarters of the drum and the dome with the lantern, the roof of the south arm of the transept, with many of the cupolas and much of the roof of the right aisle.

Reconstruction was a complex process. Analysis of the debris and the remaining structure made clear how complicated the building history had been. The grand reopening of Noto Cathedral was celebrated by Bishop Giuseppe Malandrino of Noto on 15 June 2007, eleven years after the collapse.

Since then, work on the interior decorations and furnishings of the cathedral has continued. The new high altar, lectern, crucifix and organ were consecrated by Bishop Antonio Staglianò on 13 January 2011.

The new altar, lectern and crucifix were made of silvered bronze and Sicilian jasper by the Italian sculptor Giuseppe Ducrot. As a major part of the ceremony, the frescos in the cupola and pendentives by the Russian painter, Oleg Supereko, were also revealed, as well as the eight new windows in the cupola by Francesco Mori.

The exterior of the duomo is of pale yellow limestone, in the Sicilian Baroque style. In front of the cathedral are four statues of saints on pillars. The church bell is in the left tower, with a clock on the right tower a clock, and a large window in the central tower, there is a large window.

The interior of the cathedral is now simply painted white, as the 18th century interior decoration was destroyed in the collapse. A silver urn holds the relics of Saint Corrado Confalonieri, the patron saint of the city of Noto.

Noto and its churches were declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2002.

The frescos in the cupola and pendentives are by the Russian painter Oleg Supereko and the eight new windows in the cupola are by Francesco Mori (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 12: 13-21 (NRSVA):

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ 14 But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ 15 And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ 16 Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” 18 Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” 20 But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’

Work on the interior decorations and furnishings of the cathedral has continued since it reopened in 2007 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers: USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Praying for Peace.’ This theme was introduced yesterday with a prayer written by the Revd Tuomas Mäkipää, Chaplain of Saint Nicholas.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (23 October 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

Lord make us channels of your peace, where there is hatred let us bring your love.

The Collect:

God, the giver of life,
whose Holy Spirit wells up within your Church:
by the Spirit’s gifts equip us to live the gospel of Christ
and make us eager to do your will,
that we may share with the whole creation
the joys of eternal life;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

God our Father,
whose Son, the light unfailing,
has come from heaven to deliver the world
from the darkness of ignorance:
let these holy mysteries open the eyes of our understanding
that we may know the way of life,
and walk in it without stumbling;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued Tomorrow

The Baptistry in the duomo in Noto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Looking through the doors of the Duomo in Noto on the Palazzo Ducezio or town hall below (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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