Noto Cathedral construction, in the style of the Sicilian Baroque, began in the early 18th century and was completed in 1776. It is dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra, and has been the cathedral of the Diocese of Noto since the diocese's establishment in 1844.
The cathedral dome collapsed in 1996 as a result of unremedied structural weakening caused by an earthquake in 1990, to which injudicious building alterations in the 1950s may have contributed. It has since been rebuilt, and was reopened in 2007.
The façade, the composition of which is comparable to those of the church of Notre-Dame, Versailles, and the pre-revolutionary church of Saint-Roch in Paris, was started in late 1767 (the nearby campanile bears the date 1768) to designs of about 1740 by Gagliardi.
In the 19th century the dome had to be reconstructed twice, ending up as a Neo-Classical construction, after collapses caused by earthquakes. In the 1950s much refurbishment was carried out, not entirely successfully, for example the trompe-l'oeil 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. Most serious however was the replacement of the original pitched roof of the nave by a heavy loft of Roman brick and concrete which was probably one of the causes of the collapse of 1996.
The exterior is of pale yellow limestone, in the Sicilian Baroque style. In front of the cathedral are four statues of saints on pillars. On the left tower is mounted the church bell, and on the right tower a clock. In the central tower, there is a large window. There are also three doors. Over the crossing is the large central dome.
The interior is now simply painted white, as the 18th century interior decoration was destroyed in the collapse. The principal features and furnishings are those consecrated on 13 January 2011, as above.
The cathedral houses the relics of Saint Corrado Confalonieri, patron saint of the city of Noto.References:
Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.
Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.
It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.
Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.
Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.
The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.
The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.
With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.
Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.