Messina, the Hermitage of San Nicola in ruins. Where Saint Eustochia was baptized and received her first vocation

Photo of author

By John

Along the Via del Fante, in the lower part of the Annunziata village, hidden among the lush vegetation and waste, you reach the Hermitage of San Nicola. A medieval monastery located precisely in the Poggio Paradiso area. This alone would be enough to demonstrate its importance. It turns out, however, that the beginning of the religious life of Saint Eustochia Smeralda Calafato is also linked to this place buried by brambles and ruins and, therefore, it deserves different treatment.
Few people know that in the small church of San Nicola (also known as the church of S. Niccolò), the Poor Clare from Messina whose 539th anniversary of death will be celebrated on Saturday (20 January 1485) which took her at just fifty years of age, received the sacrament of baptism and it was here, in the summer of 1447, that he received his first divine call. Two valid reasons for making this site, unknown to many, finally of public interest, inserting it in the cultural itinerary dedicated to the memory of the saint from Messina who lived in the Annunziata village, in the birthplace of Salita Caprera, a destination for visitors and pilgrims.
The privately owned Hermitage of S. Nicola does not enjoy the same visibility, unfortunately offers a shameful image of itself. Swallowed by weeds and brushwood, it bears the signs of long abandonment and destruction. In the courtyard of the small church you can see a pile of wooden planks. Some are the remains of the ancient confessional torn to pieces. There are window frames, bricks and rusty tins to disfigure a religious space that sealed the Christianity of a saint.
“In that little church of San Nicolò in the Annunziata village – we read in an ancient document – where she was baptized, the Holy Spirit calls Smeralda, then Eustochia, to the observance of poverty. She was thirteen when she started thinking about seclusion.”

The well-known historian from Messina, Nino Principato, after having made known the importance of this place sadly left in neglect, three months ago, he wrote a letter to the mayor Federico Basile asking the Municipality to purchase the property and restore it to make it usable. The architect Principato describes its artistic prestige by noting the detail of the façade which preserves an eighteenth-century portal crowned by a Habsburg coat of arms. Inside the church, in the sacristy, there is a marble plaque with an inscription warning women to enter the Hermitage to avoid excommunication.
«It is not a proposal to be excluded, on the contrary – states Enzo Caruso, Councilor for Culture – there is already the desire to create a route between the places that are linked to the figure of Sant’Eustochia. In this case, since it is a private asset, the first thing to check is the willingness of the owners to sell or transfer the property as for Palazzo Formento. At this moment we have presented the request for financing for various sites including the Cenobio and the monumental gallery at the Gran Camposanto, the Monastery of S. Filippo the Great, the Castellaccio (Metropolitan City), the construction of the Antonello House-museum, the restoration of Forte Schiaffino, the reconstruction of the open-air theater of Forte Ogliastri”.