Santa Maria del Carmine is considered amongst the best examples of Lombard Gothic architecture. It was begun in 1374 by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan, on a project attributed to Bernardo da Venezia. The construction followed a slow pace, and was restarted in 1432, being finished in 1461.
The church has an imposing façade commanding the square with the same name; the slender forms betray a residual Romanesque influence, although the decorations are undoubutably of Lombard Gothic style. The façade is divided into five vertical compartments by six pilasters surmounted by spires. The three central sectors have a portal each, remade by Giuseppe Marchesi in 1854. Over the portals are four large ogival mullioned windows and an elaborated rose window in brickwork.
The bell tower, dating to c. 1450, has numerous friezes and a triple mullioned window with marble columns.
The interior is characterized by an inspiring penumbra, and is on the Latin cross plan with a nave and numerous lateral chapels with frescoes and paintings.
In the transept are also precious 15th-century frescoes, while the sacristy (1576) has façade with Baroque stuccoes. Also notable is the Gothic tabernacle (1449) and the marble altar of the presbytery.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.