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Comune di Modica
Modica view.jpg
Coat of arms of Modica
Coat of arms
Modica is located in Italy
Location of Modica in Italy
Coordinates: 36°51′N 14°46′E / 36.850°N 14.767°E / 36.850; 14.767
Country Italy
Region Sicily
Province Ragusa (RG)
Frazioni Frigintini, Marina di Modica
 • Mayor Ignazio Abbate
 • Total 290.77 km2 (112.27 sq mi)
Elevation 296 m (971 ft)
Population (31 May 2009)
 • Total 54,581
 • Density 190/km2 (490/sq mi)
Demonym Modicani
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 97015
Dialing code 0932
Patron saint St. George
Saint day April 23
Website Official website
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily)
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iv, v
Reference 398
UNESCO region Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 2002 (20th Session)
The Cathedral of San Giorgio, Modica.
Façade of the Baroque church of San Pietro.

Modica (Sicilian: Muòrica, Greek: Μότουκα, Latin: Mutyca or Motyca) is a city and comune in the Province of Ragusa, Sicily, southern Italy. The city is situated in the Hyblaean Mountains and, along with Val di Noto, is part of UNESCO Heritage Sites in Italy.


According to Thucydides, the city was founded in 1360 BC or 1031 BC and was inhabited by the Sicels in the 7th century BC. It was probably a dependency of Syracuse. Modica was occupied by the Romans after the battle of the Egadi islands against the Carthaginians in the Punic Wars 241 BC, together with Syracuse and all of Sicily. Modica became one of the thirty-five decuman ("spontaneously submitted") cities of the island and was oppressed by the praetor Verres.[1] It became an independent municipium, and apparently a place of some consequence. The city is also mentioned among the inland towns of the island both by Pliny and Ptolemy; and though its name is not found in the Itineraries, it is again mentioned by the Geographer of Ravenna.[2] Silius Italicus also includes it in his list of Sicilian cities, and immediately associates it with Netum (now Noto Antico), with which it was clearly in the same neighborhood.[3] The southeast of Sicily and Modica (according to the German historian L. Hertling) was rapidly Christianized, as the diocese of Syracuse boasts an apostolic foundation by St. Paul in 61 AD.[4] In 535, the Byzantine general Belisarius expelled the Ostrogoths and established for Justinian I the government of the East-Roman Empire (also improperly known as the Byzantine Empire) and the already Greek-speaking population fixed their culture until the Latinization of the Normans in the 11th century.

In 845, Modica was captured by the Arabs during the Muslim conquest of Sicily.[5] They referred to the city as Mudiqah.[6] The year after its capture, the Arabs fortified its citadels and it subsequently prospered under their rule.[7][8] In 1091 the conquest of Modica and the entire Val di Noto ended the long lasting war of the Normans, led by Roger of Hauteville, against the Arabs.

In 1296, Modica became the capital of an important county, which under the Chiaramonte family became a flourishing semi-independent state controlling the whole southern third of the island, with the right of a mint of its own and other privileges (see County of Modica).

On 15 August 1474, the Christian community of Modica wreaked a brutal havoc on the Jewish dwellers of Cartellone, the so-called "Strage dell'Assunta". This episode has been the first and most horrible antisemitic massacre to the detriment of the Sicilian Israelites. During the evening of Assumption's Day, with a single collective raptus numberless citizens (fomented by fanatic Catholic preachers) slaughtered about 360 innocents causing a total and fierce devastation in La Giudecca. The incitement that echoed through the streets was: "Hurrah for Mary! Death to the Jews!" (Viva Maria! Morte ai Giudei!).[9]

Later, the earthquake of 1693 destroyed the entire Val di Noto, and to a slightly lesser extent in Modica. Annexed to Italy in 1860, Modica remained district capital until 1926, when it was included in the province of Ragusa.

Main sights[edit]

The Castle of the Counts of Modica.

As the city developed it gradually became divided into "Modica Alta" (Upper Modica) and "Modica Bassa" (Lower Modica). During the last century the city has extended and developed new suburbs which include Sacro Cuore (or "Sorda"), Monserrato, Idria, these are often referred to as Modern Modica; both old and modern quarters of the city are today joined by one of Europe's higher bridge, the Guerrieri bridge, 300 metres (980 ft) long.

Despite being ravaged by earthquakes in 1613 and 1693 and floods in 1833 and 1902, Modica has maintained some of the most beautiful architecture in Sicily, in the Sicilian Baroque style. The city possesses a large Baroque Cathedral dedicated to San Giorgio. While the cathedral was rebuilt following the earthquake of 1693, like many other parts of the city its roots are in the Middle Ages.

There is another church dedicated to San Pietro in Modica Bassa, featuring a principal façade crowned by a typical Sicilian Baroque belltower, 49 metres (161 ft) high.

Other sights include:

  • Castello dei Conti (Castle)
  • Chiesa del Carmine
  • Church of St. Mary of Betlehem
  • Garibaldi Theater
  • Mercedari Palace -contains a museum and library


The economy of the area once principally agricultural producing olives, carobs, legumes, cereals, and cattle; an extraordinary and unique product is the famous chocolate of Modica, produced with an ancient and original Aztec recipe. The city has now been joined by factories producing textiles, furniture and cars. Tourism is also an important industry to the area, since Modica entered the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.


The eighteenth century saw Modica in the role of art and culture town, counting philosophers (Tommaso Campailla), poets (Girolama Grimaldi Lorefice), a school of medicine (Campailla, Gaspare Cannata, Michele Gallo, the Polara family) and literary academies among its inhabitants. In the nineteenth century, feudalism was abolished and Modica became a "bourgeois" town peopled by notables such as the writer and anthropologist Serafino Amabile Guastella, the agronomist Clemente Grimaldi, the musician Pietro Floridia and many painters, historians and other intellectuals.

Modica was also the birthplace of writer Salvatore Quasimodo, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cicero, In Verrem, 1, III, 51
  2. ^ Plin. iii. 8. § 14 ; Ptol. iii. 4. § 14; Geogr. Rav. v. 23.
  3. ^ Sil. Ital. xiv. 268.
  4. ^ Acts of the Apostles 28:12
  5. ^ Kenneth Meyer Setton (1969). A History of the Crusades: The first hundred years, edited by M. W. Baldwin (illustrated ed.). Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 45. ISBN 9780299048341. 
  6. ^ Gerard-Sharp, Lisa, ed. (1993). Sicily (illustrated ed.). APA Publications. p. 259. ISBN 9780395657782. 
  7. ^ Gerard-Sharp, Lisa, ed. (1993). Sicily (illustrated ed.). APA Publications. p. 259. ISBN 9780395657782. 
  8. ^ The Modern Part of an Universal History: From the Earliest Account of Time. Compiled from Original Writers. By the Authors of The Antient Part. S. Richardson, T. Osborne, C. Hitch, A. Millar, John Rivington, S. Crowder, P. Davey and B. Law, T. Longman, and C. Ware. 1759. p. 426. 
  9. ^


External links[edit]