Saint Mary of the Cave Church


 Originally it was a Monastery and Abbey of the Greek rite, according to Saint Basil’s rule.

In 1101 large areas of farmland and building land were assigned to the Basilians’ Order by Queen Adelaide, regent for count Roger, the future King of Sicily.  It is accounted that at the end of the 12th century the Abbey had neither an abbot nor monks.  Consequently, in 1196 Queen Constance united it with the homonymous  church in Palermo, with Pope Innocent III’s approval in 1199.

The Monastery passed from hand to hand until 1550 when Charles V gave it to the Jesuits’Order.

After a period of vacatio (vacancy), it was assigned to the Minims’Order of Saint Francis from Paola.  In their turn, the Minims abandoned it and gave it back to the Jesuits who kept it until 1767 when they were expelled.  Assigned to the Order of Saint George’s Constantinian Knights, it returned to the Jesuits until their breaking up.  Then it became state property and passed to the State Agency in charge of western Sicily monuments.

 With the passing of time the caves have undergone many changes.  Three are however the most important periods of their history:  Punic necropolis, latomies, and early Christian necropolis with their hypogeums, niches, funerary plates, faded frescoes, skylights, and floors dating back to the 16th century, and tombs of the 16th -18th centuries.

 According to G.B. Amico’s plan that included also the ancient caves, the Church was built in 1712.

St. Mary of the Cave - open

Right cave - open

Left cave - open