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The church of St. Andrew and the college of Mary

The church of St. Andrew the Apostle was founded around the XVII century by the Sacred Bartolomeo Bellhomo in the neighborhood called “delli Piraini” in the upper part of the town, as shown in the Revelations of the State Archives of Palermo:

“Antonino Gargano has a lock in the Communi qta delli Piraini di T 3- of land near the house of Antonio Cirincione and near the Church of the Glorious Apostle St. Andrew in which there are four feet of walnuts, two of pears, a foot of black mulberry, a foot of white mulberry, three of almonds, two of apples, two of figs and a foot of black cherry “(State Archives-Palermo, Deputation of the Kingdom, Revelations 2945, f. 87, year 1748).

The internal part has three naves with a trussed roof supported by monobloc stone columns with capitals decorated with acanthus leaves. The access to the main entrance is by a staircase. The portal is in stone on whose center a fish is carve and the date of 1722 is engraved.

The church is dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle, patron saint of fishermen, of which you can admire a valuable gilded wooden simulacrum made by Francesco Reyna and painted by Vincenzo Di Giovanni in 1690, the same authors of the simulacrum of St. Joseph, kept at the Old Matrix.

The chapel on the right contains a beautiful image of the Virgin of Carmel dating back to 1912. Between the precious paintings stand out the one depicting Saints James, Philip and Andrew signed in 1628 by Geronimo Lombardo of Calabria; the Good Death of Fra’ Felice from Sambuca (1733-1805); the Annunciation, attributed to the hand of Zoppo di Ganci; Maria SS. del Lume, protectress of the sea, similar to the miraculous effigy that is venerated in the seaside village of Porticello (PA).

Also worthy of attention is the wooden statue of Ecce Homo with half-bust of 1682 attributed to Frate Umile from Petralia and the Pietà, sculpted between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries with the same iconographic setting of the famous Michelangelo. Above the entrance door there is an organ of 1906, twin to that of San Sebastiano.

In addition to the cult towards the Virgin of Carmel and her scapular saint, in this church the Holy Crucifix is venerated, which is carried in procession during the night of Good Friday by the confraternity of Carmel. As Scelsi reports, a monastery of cloistered Carmelite nuns was originally attached to the church, as evident from the two grades that protrude inside the church. According to Ganci Battaglia that building was used as a boarding school – the College of Mary – founded in 1765 by the Prince of Belmonte D. Giuseppe Emmanuele Ventimiglia.

In any case, in that ancient religious structure, later converted into a school, there were mysterious stories of women’s spirits, called by popular imagination “the fairies of the college”.   


D’Angelo G., Wildflowers, Palermo 2001.

By Francesca P., Gratteri, Palermo 2000.

Ganci Battaglia G., Historical and traditional notes of the Municipality of Gratteri, Palermo 1930.

Scelsi I., Gratteri, history, culture, traditions, Palermo 1981.

Scileppi S., Church life in Gratteri, Ed.Tip.Le Madonie, 2009.

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