The Church of Saint Anne (Sant’Anna) in Catania
The church was entirely rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1693. The previous construction, adjacent to the city gate called the Porta Decima (which marked the beginning of the Via Naumachia), had been assigned in 1650 to the Trinitarian Friars, a religious order similar to the Mercedarians and dedicated to the Holy Trinity by its founders St. John of Matha and St. Felix de Valois in 1198 with the purpose of redeeming Christian slaves from the hands of the infidel. The Friars, whose habit is white with a red and blue cross on the chest, arrived in Catania in 1580. They had first been allocated the Church of Santa Maria della Concordia outside the city walls (in what is now the Via Sant’Euplio) and from there they moved to Santo Spirito by Porta Aci and thence to Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Via Montevergine, before finally establishing themselves at the Church of Saint Anne since when they were known locally as the Monks of Saint Anne. The convent of the Trinitarians was destroyed by the earthquake of 1693 but was rebuilt with even greater beauty and the devotion to of Saint Anne once again flourished.
In the Eighteenth Century the Order of the Trinitarians fell victim to the waves of anticlerical reform that swept across Europe and as a result of which the assets and buildings of the religious Orders were confiscated. The convent was suppressed and the church of Saint Anne was taken over by the city authorities who sold it to the Mauro family (of which Giuseppe Verga’s mother was a member) who had it demolished and then rebuilt it on a smaller scale as we see today. Don Giuseppe Filogamo was appointed chaplain who was succeeded by his brother don Vincenzo, a minor canon of the cathedral, who was in turn succeeded in 1818 by their nephew don Giuseppe Nicotra but after whose death the church was closed.
After some years a group of the faithful led by Giuseppe Pompei, a local businessman, obtained permission to have the church reopen for worship which took place on the 1st January 1866. The people of Catania competed in their efforts to embellish the church. The Poor Clare nuns gave altar linen embroidered with flowers. The Franciscan Friars gave two potted plants, an alb and various sacred ornaments.
Today the Church of Saint Anne is to be found in the street to which it has given its name, facing west and flanked on both sides by other buildings. On the pillars either side of its single entrance were painted two white crosses. On entering there is a vestibule by way of a broad corridor leading into the church itself, on the right hand wall of which just beyond the holy water stoup is a painting of the School of Messina of Saint Anne with the Holy Family. On the left hand wall are to be found a confessional and a movable pulpit. Above the arch of the vestibule is situated the organ beside which is a portrait of Pope Leo XIII.
There are two side altars within the church: on the right Saint Anthony of Padua with a large painting of the saint above it and facing it on the left a Privileged Altar above which is the Holy Cross beside which is a small painting of Our Lady of Sorrows. Near to these altars can be seen on the left a trompe-l’oeil compass painted on the wall and on the right a very elegant real compass made of a mosaic of glass (now sadly lost). On the pavement between these two side altars is depicted in inset marble a crown, a book, a rosary, flowers etc.
On the arch of the apse is inscribed “Pavete ad Sanctuarium Meum” (“Be fearful in My Sanctuary”) while the apse is adorned on its walls with various frescoes of the Visitation and of a choir of angels adoring the Lamb of God. Above the high altar is the splendid and large painting by the Catanese artist Pasquale Liotta Cristaldi which depicts Saint Anne teaching Our Lady as a child within a colonnade in a garden, which was placed there in 1899. Beneath this is a reliquary which in its twelve compartments contains relics of various saints across the entire calendar as well as of the True Cross and a phial containing some powder of the remains the bones of Saint Francis of Assisi. The church is also the custodian of three effigies of the Holy Mother of God, St. Anne and Saint Aloysius Gonzaga which are venerated by the faithful on their respective feastdays. Light is given to the church by two large half-moon windows above the side altars. Around the walls of the church are the fourteen panels of the Stations of the Cross which are very fine lithographs after paintings by Morgari. The church has two bells.
The Quarant’Ore exposition of the Blessed Sacrament takes place from the 25th to the 28th February every year.