The church of the Madonna della Mercede


In the square below the castle is the church dedicated to an important local cult: the feast of the Madonna della Mercede, celebrated the fourth week of September. On Friday evening the statue of the Madonna della Mercede descends through the illuminated arches mounted along the road that leads from the church to the main church of San Giovanni Battista. Here it is hosted for three days, during which it is visited by the faithful of every country in the surroundings, but also by those who returned for the occasion from much more distant places. On Sunday, after a procession that runs through the main streets of the village and after the games of fireworks in the open space of the mother church, he returns to his church under the castle.
The construction of the church can be dated to around the mid-eighteenth century. The cult of our Lady of Mercy is linked to the practice of the redemption of Christians who fell into slavery during the wars against the Muslims or during the raids of the Saracens. The liberation of the slaves was to take place by payment of a fee to his master by an intermediary, who was referred to by the title of redeemer. These often belonged to a confraternity or religious order. The Religious Order of the Redeemer, born in 1218 and dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy, was founded precisely for this purpose. The Order landed in Sicily in 1463, thanks to John II of Aragon. In Sperlinga the cult of the Madonna della Mercede appears at the beginning of the eighteenth century, with the birth of a religious congregation dedicated to her cult. The church was then restored in 1822 and was later enriched with an altar on which the wooden statue of the Madonna could be exhibited. The altar was also built thanks to the offerings sent by the Sperlinghesi emigrated to the Aerated States.

The painting of the Madonna della Mercede

The painting depicting the Madonna della Mercede was painted in 1706 by the priest Lorenzo Bellomo. It was commissioned to him by Antonino Pantano, then parish priest of Sperlinga, also a native of Calascibetta, as attested by the inscriptions on the semi-part pages of the book depicted at the feet of the Madonna and the two saints. It represents our Lady in the act of being crowned by God the Father covered with a large cloak, white on the outside and blue on the inside stopped on the chest by a clasps, under which the two founders of the congregation of mercenaries are kneeling: St. Peter Nolasco and St. Raymond of Peñafort. The coat of arms, which appears on the chest of the Madonna as a clasps recalls the Spanish origins of the congregation: the cross is that of the cathedral of Barcelona, the four Catalan bars in a gold field are the heraldic insignia of James I King of Aragon, who favored the formation of the new order. The white dress of the Madonna and the two Saints is the mercedary one, called “dress of St. Mary” in reference to a vision of St. Peter Nolasco, to whom the Madonna had appeared in very white clothes.

The wooden statue of the Madonna

The church houses a wooden statue of the Madonna, made by a Palermo workshop in the mid-nineteenth century. The Madonna, whose expression of intense sweetness is accentuated by the gesture that supports the child, wears a white dress and holds with her right hand the dress with the symbol of the Order of Mercenaries. The transport of the statue from Palermo to Sperlinga took place first by sea; then from Santo Stefano di Camastra she was carried on her shoulders by her confreres. It tells of the miracles performed by Our Lady along the way: at the gates of Sperlinga, for example, a blind girl regained her sight for having expressed the desire to see her. As a sign of gratitude, the girl offered our Lady her golden earrings. Since then it is custom to offer them as an ex voto of gold objects.

Wooden crucifix

On the left wall of the church there is a painted wooden crucifix, made between the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century. It is a fine workmanship made by a Sicilian workshop.

Historic Places

Discover the historic places of Sperlinga, where every corner tells compelling stories. Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage, with each stone resonating with a timeless narrative.

The Castle

The Castle

The rock site of Sperlinga Castle reveals traces of an important place of worship dating back to the Bronze Age.

Municipality of Sperlinga

Via Salita Municipio 2 - 94010 Sperlinga (EN)
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