Randazzo is a municipality of about 10,000 inhabitants located on the northern slope of Mount Etna 750 metres above sea level in the province of Catania.
It is only 15 km away from the central crater of Etna, is lapped by the Alcàntara river, and is nicknamed the “Black City” for the extensive use of lava stone in the city’s buildings.
Its history, like that of the whole of Sicily, is steeped in dominations that have followed one another for hundreds of years: first the Greeks and Romans, then the Arabs and Normans. Yet the etymology of the name still remains unknown; probably the only plausible reference is to the ruler of Taormina, Randàches, who ruled in the 8th century.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta was begun in the 13th century during the Norman era. It is said that it was built where a shepherd once saw the image of the Madonna illuminated by a tiny flame, inside a cave. Like all other churches, it is rich in black basalt on the façade, alternating with white sandstone on the portals and windows.
The Church of Santa Maria Assunta is rich in works of art by Giovanni Caniglia, Girolamo Alibrandi, Filippo Tancredi and Velasquez.
The Church of San Martino is a church built in the 5th century with a single nave, which was extended a first time in the 12th century, only to be completed with a fourth nave in the 17th century. This church has a 41-metre high bell tower with four storeys, which is reputed to be one of the most beautiful in Sicily.
The structure was damaged by bombing during World War II, which devastated and destroyed most of the works preserved inside. The only ones that survived were the marble works from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Church of St Nicholas or San Nicolò is the largest in the area and the one that has been renovated several times, which is why it also encompasses several styles. The 14th-century bell tower was destroyed during the 1693 earthquake and the one that replaced it in the 18th century remained incomplete.
Important works are kept inside, such as the statue of St Nicholas of Bari dating from 1523, the Gothic baptismal font, a triptych by Antonello da Messina and the Trinity by Giuseppe Tomasi.
What to see
In addition to the beautiful Swabian Castle, it is interesting to see Randazzo Vecchio, a peculiar statue that is a faithful reproduction of the original one destroyed during the bombings. Its interpretation could be either related to Alchemy or religion.
The statue depicts a man, with an eagle resting on his neck, then two snakes and finally a lion. It is assumed that the man is Pyracmon, the giant of Greek mythology, born from the union of Gaea and Uranus.
There is also a small, narrow street that is very well known in the village: the Via degli Archi (Street of the Arches), which leads to Piazza San Nicola and from which the nobles used to arrive to attend the Parliament in the past.
On the street, in fact, there are four lava stone arches built at regular intervals in the Aragonese style. On one of them rests a mullioned window with pointed arches above a white column that contrasts with the lava stone.
There are three museums in Randazzo: the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Museum of Sicilian Puppets and the House of Music and Medieval Lutherie.
The Natural Science Museum is divided into four sections: terrestrial fauna, marine fauna, ornithology and geology. It houses 2,000 stuffed animals, including some now extinct specimens, such as the griffon vulture of Alcara Li Fusi.
The Museum of Sicilian Puppets is located in the former municipal slaughterhouse, and its collection consists of 39 puppets made between the 19th and 20th centuries. The characters represented are those from the Chanson De Roland, which recounts the exploits of the Paladins and Charlemagne himself.
The Casa della Musica e della Liuteria Medievale (House of Music and Medieval Violin Making) is housed in a 12th-century building in which musical instruments from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages are preserved.
An instrumental evolution from shells, through animal tibiae, to instruments such as the hurdy-gurdy.