The Association is non-profit and its social purpose is the protection, preservation, and enhancement of the artistic, cultural, and monumental heritage owned by the Parish "Santi Pietro e Paolo" in Castiglione di Sicilia.

Association Museum of Saints Peter and Paul in Castiglione di Sicilia.

+39 094 29 84 058

+39 094 29 84 058

Basilica San Giacomo

Madonna della Catena

Choose one of the locations


whatsapp @ All Right Reserved 2023 - Website created by Flazio Experience @ All Right Reserved 2023 - Website created by Flazio Experience

Although not holding the canonical title of sanctuary, the Church possesses devotional elements, linked to the past, still alive among the populations of the countries in the Alcantara valley who pay special honors to the image of Our Lady of the Chain, the destination of pilgrimages on foot during her feast days. The construction events of today's church revolve around its worship, which has been subject to continuous improvements and expansions, especially on particular anniversaries linked to miraculous events.


The basilica, located east-west, stands near the cliff on which the castle of Lauria is built, constituting the highest point of the medieval urban structure, from which the entire valley is dominated. The worship of Our Lady of the Chain spread in the city from the 15th century and gained greater momentum in the mid-16th century when a marble sculpture was commissioned, probably by the Gioeni family and placed in the primitive church of San Giacomo outside the city. A miraculous event occurred on May 12, 1612, when "the marble image called Our Lady of the Chain was brought into the church of St. James of this city, sweated many times, from which sweat some was collected in a small vessel and preserved, about which event and sweat I wrote to the archpriest of this city to the Most Illustrious and Reverend Lord Archbishop of Messina" (G. Prescimone 1616, Ms. f. 17; G.L. Sardo 1991, p. 69), giving a greater impulse to the devotion to the Virgin Mary by rallying the inhabitants in the construction of a more dignified building within the city walls. To this event was added the edict issued by Philip IV, King of Spain in 1623, stating that throughout the kingdom the Virgin Mary should be proclaimed patroness and protector, "annually celebrating a particular feast with a novena, which should begin each year on the first Sunday after midday in Albis for the first solemn vespers, after which there should be a general procession in each city and land" (cf. A. Manitta 1996, pp. 103-104).

The above mentioned led to the construction of the new church starting from 1655, gradually abandoning the old building that had been hit by a landslide. The Book of Accounts of San Giacomo records numerous expenses for the construction until 1664, when the building is assumed to be finished.


From some testamentary legacies, we learn that the church had two chapels, one dedicated to Saint James and the other to Our Lady of the Chain (cf. G.L. Sardo 1991, p. 34). It can be inferred that the marble statue of the Virgin was permanently transferred here. According to an oral tradition, reported at the beginning of the last century by a local historian, the statue of the Madonna together with two other similar statues kept in Motta Camastra (Immaculate: cf. C. Grassi 1905, IV, p. 128) and in Roccella Valdemone (Madonna of Audience) "were transported together at night by oxen and deposited in the named premises" (V. Sardo 1910, p. 202).


Regarding the chronology of the artifact, there is information about the will of the Congregation of San Giacomo to have a statue of Our Lady of the Chain made by an artist from Messina in 1554, information that is linked to the intentions of the Gioeni family to create a devotional sculpture bearing that title (V. Sardo 1919, p. 203, n. 1), but this commission remained unfulfilled.


In the absence of conclusive documents, art historians have put forward hypotheses about the names associated with the workshop of Antonello Gagini, artists belonging to that current defined as "Gaginesque mannerism" which, however, has "very little of the authentic art of the master" (B. Patera 2008, p.125)

The candid faces of the Virgin and the divine Infant have their gazes directed towards the observer, while the intertwining of the Child's left hand with that of the Mother is absolutely surprising, completing an aureole chain supported by the two figures. The marble block, weighing about seven quintals, is placed on a base where some episodes related to the miracle of the Chains that occurred in Palermo in the 14th century are sculpted, where three death-row prisoners are freed from their chains thanks to the intervention of the Virgin (see A. Manitta 1996, pp. 92-96). 


The May festival dates back to an event in March 1809 when a strong eruption of Mount Etna brought together the citizens of Castiglione and the nearby Linguaglossa, united in prayer to avert the danger from a lava flow that destroyed part of the cultivated lands in the Cirmanera area, which was vital for the local economy. It was Holy Saturday when two processions—one from Castiglione with the statue of Saint Joseph and the other from Linguaglossa with the statue of the patron Saint Giles—met at the location of Croce di Cerro.


The proposals for penance and fasting, sanctioned the following day by the priest Francesco Ferrara, were kindly accepted by the faithful. In the presence of the notary Aloisio Stagnitti Garagozzo, on April 2 of the mentioned year, the jurors, the mayor, and the parish archpriest Antonino Michele Sardo, on behalf of themselves and the "entire population," drew up a public deed emphasizing the commitment to fast "every year up to eternity and infinity, every Wednesday after Easter Sunday […] to, by means of this perpetual vow, appease the anger of the Most High and quench the fire" (V. Sardo 1919, doc. XXIV, p. 276). 

With further processions, the statue of the Madonna was brought in front of the lava flow which "miraculously stopped after a few days" (A. Manitta 1996, p. 107). With a new act signed on April 23, 1809, it was established that on the anniversary of the grace received, the Sunday in Albis, the feast in honor of the Virgin will be solemnized. A new episode of lava invasion occurred in 1879 near the district of Passopisciaro where the statue of the Madonna was transferred: once again, the eruptive mouths extinguished "even before the eight days were up, while praying to the Blessed Virgin of the Chain" (V. Sardo 1910, p. 204, n. 3). These events led in the following years to a significant increase in the flow of pilgrimages, so much so that, at the beginning of the last century, an expansion of the sacred building became necessary, especially in anticipation of the celebrations for the centenary of the danger averted that were to take place in 1909. The same parchment inserted inside the first stone, laid in 1905 for the expansion works, recalled the grace received "for the preservation of the city and neighboring places" (cf. A. Manitta 1996, p. 30). The works, however, lasted a long time and had a turning point with the consecration of the building on August 14, 1923 by Bishop Fernando Cento of Acireale. 

The present architectural structure, transformed into a Greek cross with the latest extensions, is located at the top of a staircase in lava basalt, the same material used for the foundation plinth. Once belonging to the Archdiocese of Messina, since 1844 it falls under the Diocese of Acireale; As the commemorative plaque recalls, on December 8, 1986, the sacred building was elevated to a Minor Basilica by Saint John Paul II.
The facade is the work of Baldassare Greco from the mid-18th century: a stringcourse divides the two orders made up of sandstone blocks that define the pilasters allowing a slight movement of the surface. At the center is the portal in white stone carved in 1743 by Baldassarre Greco, characterized by two refined twisted columns with vegetal elements in the lower part, while in the upper part they are curved with vases and coat of arms with a dedicatory inscription. In the two lateral niches, the statues of Saint James and Saint Philip are placed. Access to the Basilica of Maria Santissima della Catena is through an evocative staircase entirely made of lava basalt.

The Basilica also houses the "Sacristies" with an exhibition of sacred art, silverware, and sacred vestments from the Churches of Castiglione. This structure is also accessible to visitors with disabilities through special platforms. Access to the Church is free, to visit the Sacristies and the attached Museum through a 1 euro coin or QR code scan.


The Basilica is freely accessible, with the contribution of a 1 Euro ticket you can visit "the Sacristies of the Basilica" with an exhibition of sacred vestments, precious works of sacred art.

Create Website with | Free and Easy Website Builder