The stately Cathedral of San Giorgio is one of the most important and impressing religious monuments in all Sicily. Its origin is partly unknown. According to historian Carrafa, the original structure of the church dated from the early Middle ages and was destroyed by the Arabians in 845; in the beginning of the 12th century it was rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by Roger The Norman. Highly damaged by the 1613’s earthquake, it was rebuilt at the behest of Count Giovanni Alfonso Henriquez-Cabrera. Another, more devastating earthquake in 1693, razed it to the ground; the reconstruction, sumptuous like never before, it is alleged, was entrusted to celebrated architect Rosario Gagliardi, from Siracusa, already author of the San Giorgio’s in Ragusa. Some claim it resulted from a collaboration of architects from Noto.
The church, with nave and double aisles, was re-opened in 1738; the magnificent flight of 250 steps, that starts down from Corso Garibaldi, pays homage to the stately front elevation; it was finished in 1818 by Jesuit Francesco di Mauro. The façade rises through three levels to a single bell-tower; a sense of sweeping movement is imparted by the projecting convex central bay, flanked to each side by twin bays that accommodate the double aisles. A balustrade and a pair of compact volutes act to soften the strong horizontal transition between the ground and first levels. Inside, it contains a highly prized chased silver altar front upon which sits a fine polyptych (1513) by Bernardino Niger. The three tiers show the Holy Family between St George and St Martin, with, above the Joyful Mysteries and the Glorious - Mysteries. The transept floor is inlaid with a 19C meridian by A Perini. The third chapel on the right contains an Assumption altarpiece by Francesco Paladini. The aisles are richly ornamented with stuccoes and paintings, such as the 1513’s Events of the Gospel and of the life of Saint George, by Girolamo Aliprandi, who was known as the “Raphael of Sicily”.