Rising 600 meters above sea level, some 100 km from Palmero is Sutera, in Sicily. Now a town of 1223 people (May 2021), it has a fascinating history. Sutera is a rural community, defined by feudal estates and cereal cultivation which has evolved through a community of peasants – indentured servants, craftsman – carpenters, masons and bakers, and professionals in the modern age undertaking the roles of medics, pharmacists and lawyers.
The Arabs reigned between the 9th and 11th Centuries and founded a settlement in Sutera around 860 AD. The urban centre of Sutera is made up of three districts, Rabatto, Rabatello and Giadinell.
Rabatto has many typical features of an Arabian village, narrow streets, terraces and plaster walls, though many of the surviving features are hidden behind a succession of layers, in an attempt to modernise, but the area is still reminiscent of the period. It is here, that the living Nativity scene is set each year. The roads wind their way around the mountain of San Paolino.
A mosque was built in 875 AD and was the largest religious building. In 1370 it was demolished and replaced with a church, Santa Maria Assunta. There is also a 15th Century ruin, Salamone Palace. The church of Maria Santissima de Carmelo, built in 1185, and rebuilt in 1934, alongside a small convent that was built in 1664, which now fittingly houses the Museum of Rural Life, An Ethno Anthropological Museum reflecting the culture and community of Sutera across hundreds of years.
In 1545 the church was rebuilt and became the mother church, which is still standing, on the archaeological site of San Marco. The church houses a handcrafted organ, dating to 1600.
San Paolino is a lovely church, located on the top of the mountain in Sutera, which is 812 metres high. The church is located next door to the small 18th Century convent of the Philippine Fathers. It is here, at San Paolino, that the reclics of the Patron Saints of Sutera are found, San Paolino, Sant’Onofrio and Sant’Archileone.