Under the Norman domination, Sicily had a new territorial order and various Christian Princes made numerous concessions to the Church.
The district of Butera was assigned to Arrigo Marquis of Lombardy. His son, Simone Aleramico, nephew of Count Roger the Norman, founded a Priory dedicated to St. Andrew to the east of Platea or Pluzia (today Piazza Armerina) during the 1st Crusade in 1096. The historical importance of Saint Andrew's Church is tied to the fact that it represents the first priory – ''protopriorato'', to be precise - that the patriarchal Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem had in Sicily.
In 1104 the founder Simone presented it with other donations, and built onto it a monastery that was endowed with St. Gregory's church and its estates by his uncle Roger.
In 1106, with the brothers of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem having settled in Sicily, the Grand Priory of Saint Andrew gave hospitality to a coenobite community that lived according to the rule of the canons ''regular of St. Augustine'' and the monastery was considered as ''gancia of the Holy Sepulchre''.
In 1262 the priory of Saint Andrew, according to the wishes of Pope Urbano IV, was placed under the exclusive jurisdiction of the patriarchal Church of Jerusalem, thus becoming the responsability of the Latin Patriarch.
This religious community, conforming to the discipline of the ''Ospitalieri'' and the ''Templaris'', armed its lay brothers with the insignia of the five red crosses in memory of the five wounds of Jesus Christ. The duties of these lay brothers were to guarantee assistance to pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land and to fight for the growth of the faith and for the liberation of the Holy Land; within a short time, since they were supported by the Norman Princes, they had many privileges and donations of land, and were revered and feared by the people.
On 30th November 1144, Count Simone Butera, an enthusiast of the noble institution, St. George's Church, near Butera, and the abbey of Saint Mary of Platea, with its respective estates (the hamlet of Gallinica with Saint Agata's Chapel and its grounds) to the new priory of Piazza Armerina, with a diploma which in addition contained many more donations and privileges.
With all these concessions and privileges, the coenoby became prosperous and, just as it did to pilgrims
going to the Holy Land, the Holy See granted particular indulgences to the visitors of St. Andrew's church in Piazza Armerina during the Easter period.
When the Holy Land fell into the hands of the Moslems, and Sicily fell under the control of the sovereigns of the House of Aragon, in 1446 the regular canons were replaced by four secular chaplains. Although the latter continued to use the bold red cross, the priory ceased to belong to the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and became a substantial benefit that the Aragon Kings and, subsequently, the Spanish, Austrians, Bourbons and Italians conferred to ecclesiastics in their trust.
The Grand Prior pro-tem was raised, in more recent times, to the dignity of the Peers of the Parliament of Sicily, the most ancient Parliament of Europe.
The Parliament was composed of three houses: the clerical, which numbered 66 prelates; the military which numbered 58 princes, 27 dukes, 37 marquises, 27 counts, a viscount and 79 barons; and the commons which numbered 43 representatives of the regal cities. This legislative system lasted up to 1815, when Ferdinand I abolished the Sicilian representation and established absolutist government.
Today this monument is again the responsabilty of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.
Another ancient priory is that of Holy Cross Church, in Messina. This ancient church, built outside the city walls, under the Normans (XIIth century) was first a home to the regular canons of S. Augustine and then was united to the monastery of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem .
However, there are few documents on the presence of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Sicily across the centuries, and sometimes they offer differing information.
In 1932 there were only a few Knights, and the Lieutenant, nominated by the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, started the work of reorganization, thus bringing about the rebirth of the Order in the island.
With the statutory reforms of the eminent Cardinal Canali, Sicily was divided into two Sections - Western Sicily and Eastern Sicily - and in the Delegation of Lieutenancy of Messina, was under the control of the Lieutenancy for Southern Italy which was based in Naples.
During the years of reconstruction the management and use of prestigious churches was assigned to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre: the Church Capitulate of S. Cataldo (1937) and the oratory of St. Caterina in Alexandria (1946).
The re-birth of the Order was aided firstly by the institution of the Magistral Delegation, on October 6th
1980, and subsequently by the restoration of the Lieutenancy for Italy Sicily, on December 1st 1981. Today this is divided into the Sections of Palermo, of Catania - which oversees the Local Delegation of Piazza Armerina -, of Messina - which oversees the Local Delegation of Patti - and of Siracusa.
Since 1997 the Lieutenant for Sicily has been His Eminence Knight of the Grand Cross Prof. Avv. Antonio Mistretta while the Chancellor is Knight of the Grand Cross Antonio Lo Monaco.
The Knights of the Lieutenancy of Italy Sicily have been granted the privilege of wearing two little gold buttons with the insignia of the five red crosses on the collar of their cloaks.
Back to Home page
Chiesa S. Andrea
Chiesa Capitolare di San Cataldo
Clicca per ingrandire Oratorio di S. Caterina d'Alessandria