St. Teresa Church was built on the house in which Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born and is part of the Carmelite convent. Underground, the large vaulted burial crypt, which is currently used as the Museum of St Teresa, is the only example of its kind in Spanish religious architecture. The work was directed by the Carmelite architect Fray Alonso de San José and began in 1629. The building was opened on 15 October 1636.
In the purest Carmelite Baroque style, the church has a Latin-cross layout with a central nave and four chapels on each side. With the main altar in the northwest, it does not keep to established liturgical orientation as the presbytery was built to coincide with the room in which Teresa of Jesus was born. The entrance to the chapel of St Teresa opens up on the right arm of the transept and coincides with the area in which her family home once stood, together with the 'small garden where the saint prayed' opposite.
The front, which was designed in the style of an altarpiece, is separated into three bodies, giving prominence to the marble statue of the saint and the coats of arms of the Cepeda and Ahumada families, the Order of the Barefoot Carmelites, that of the Duke of Olivares, that of the Governor and that of Doctor of the Church.
Inside, the sculptures by Gregorio Fernández (17th century) and his school are of particular interest.References:
The eight towns in south-eastern Sicily, including Ragusa, were all rebuilt after 1693 on or beside towns existing at the time of the earthquake which took place in that year. They represent a considerable collective undertaking, successfully carried out at a high level of architectural and artistic achievement. Keeping within the late Baroque style of the day, they also depict distinctive innovations in town planning and urban building. Together with seven other cities in the Val di Noto, it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1693 Ragusa was devastated by a huge earthquake, which killed some 5,000 inhabitants. Following this catastrophe the city was largely rebuilt, and many Baroque buildings from this time remain in the city. Most of the population moved to a new settlement in the former district of Patro, calling this new municipality 'Ragusa Superiore' (Upper Ragusa) and the ancient city 'Ragusa Inferiore' (Lower Ragusa). The two cities remained separated until 1926, when they were fused together to become a provincial capital in 1927.