Noto was erected as Episcopalian Church and the Chiesa Madre as Cathedral by Pope Gregory XVI through the bull “Gravissimum sane munus” the May 15, 1844. With this act, Gregory XVI gave substance to the commitment of his predecessor Pius VII which was proposed to increase the number of the dioceses in Sicily, to facilitate the pastoral service of the bishops.
In fact, the bishop of Noto had been hoped since the XII century, when Isimbardo Morengia, made Lord of Noto by Frederick II of Swabia, founded on 20 August 1212, with the dowry of four fiefdoms, the Cistercian Monastery of Santa Maria dell’Arco, asking then its transformation in Episcopalian see. The emperor wanted to agree the wishes of Morengia, but the troubles of the Swabian House and later the turbulence of the Angevins obstructed the project to make Noto the Episcopalian see. Awarded of the title of “City” by Alfonso Magnanimous on December 27, 1432, in a time of particular prestige, so that they designed a Viceroy in Niccolò Speciale, Noto asked the bull to become headed diocese on June 14, 1433 to Pope Eugene IV and on January 22, 1450 to Nicholas V thanking the involvement of the abbot of Noto, Giovanni Aurispa, his apostolic secretary. The noble Rinaldo Sortino got royal letters in favour of the new bishopric in 1451 and in 1453, but Monsignor Paolo Santapan Aragonese, bishop of Syracuse, cancelled through the Holy See everything, because the pastor of Noto was also the canonical Cantor of the Dome of Syracuse assigned by the Bishop Thomas Erbes in the Diocesan Synod of 1388.
Other initiatives were promoted in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century. The arguments in favour of the new Episcopalian see were different; there was also the presence of two prestigious centres of spirituality: the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Lucia del Mendola and the Cistercian Abbey of Santa Maria dell’Arco; they were considered at the time as significant ecclesiastical places. The city of Noto was also head quarter as the other two existing, Messina and Mazara, headquarter of bishops yet. “Our Reign, named Valle is divided into three separated provinces; with this order it has established, the Episcopal Locations of Val Demone and Val di Mazzara in their respective capital cities, as Messina and Mazzara; so, therefore, for that seems to require that the third Valle yet a third Episcopal see in its capital city, is being precisely the town of Noto, a Normans Principles constitution” (cif. peroration of 1783).
The bishops of Syracuse obstacle always the realization of that desire, because of the Diocese of Noto would stretch territory. Only in mid-1800 Noto concreted the old desire. As a result of the riots that took place in Syracuse during the cholera epidemic, in fact, Ferdinand II Bourbon asked the transfer of the province in Noto. In that occasion King Ferdinand II asked to the Holy See to found the Diocese of Noto, also taking advantage of the fact that the bishop’s see of Syracuse was vacant at the death of Monsignor Giuseppe Amorelli on 13 December 1840. In the new diocese, in addition to Noto were granted, removing them to Syracuse, the municipality of Avola, Buccheri, Buscemi, Cassaro, Ferla, Giarratana, Modica, Pachino, Palazzolo Acreide, Pozzallo, Portopalo, Rosolini, and Scicli Spaccaforno (now Ispica).
On 24 November 1844 the first Bishop of Noto, Monsignor Giuseppe Menditto, took possession in the Cathedral. Monsignor Vincenzo Marolda, bishop of Trapani and delegate of the Holy See read the Bull of erection and the Papal Decrees.
In 1856 the Holy See with the decree “Peculiaribus” obtained by the government of Naples a downsizing of the powers of the court of monarchy in favour of the bishops. It placed at this stage the first three bishops of Noto: Giuseppe Menditto (1844-1849), Giovanni Battista Naselli (1851-1853) and Mario Mirone (1853-1864). With the Vatican Council I of 1870, in fact, is declined the regal ecclesiology and stated the Roman, while the institutional ties of the Church of Sicily are reinforcing with the Vatican Curia. The rift between the Italian government and the Vatican, however, prevents the appointment of new bishops in the Sicilian vacant see, because the Holy See wants to avoid that the new government claims the right to put forward the candidates, that means damage the right of the Church in the collation of the bishop’s freedom. And Noto for eight years was vacant seat: from 1864 to 1872. Only thanks to the law of Guarantees of 1871, was named the new bishop: Monsignor Benedict La Vecchia (1872-75).
Despite an acridity anti clerical – that has its peak in 1882 at the sixth centenary of the Sicilian Vespers and that puts the Sicilian bishops in a position of not being able to use the State for the observance of moral precepts and Catholic – the pastoral freedom is guaranteed. In their collective letter at the conclusion of the Sicilian Bishops’ Conference, the bishops denounce the evils that threaten the religious and moral compactness of the island. The Bishop of Noto, Archbishop Giovanni Blandini (1875-1913) – precursor of democracy and renewal in Catholicism in Italy – is defined “pearl of the Sicilian bishop” by Leo XIII, who gave him the archiepiscopal pallium “ad personam” in June 25, 1900.
About in 1910 are preferred forms of organization of Catholic laity with prominent religious formation as the Catholic Youth and oratories. Pope St. Pius X promotes catechism and relaunches good press. In the full war, in 1916, is held in Tindari the Episcopal Conference of Sicily, being secretary the bishop of Noto, Monsignor Giuseppe Vizzini (1913-1935). For him, the religious reform is possible on a spiritual level. The documents of the Prime Sicilian Plenary Council (Palermo, 1920) and the First Diocesan Synod (Noto, 5-7 October 1923) are the fruit of his juridical skills.
In 1955, when Pope Pius XII established the diocese of Ragusa through the bull “Quam quam est” the town of Giarratana passed to the new dioceses, while Palazzolo Acreide, Buccheri, Buscemi, Cassaro and Ferla, small mountain towns of Syracuse, returned to the diocese of Syracuse.
In this juncture is the episcopate of Bishop Angelo Calabretta (1936-1970), that is characterized by supernatural deep roots. The silence of prayer is the secret of his active success episcopate. His successor, Monsignor Salvatore Nicolosi (1970-1998), has increased the reality “Church” in all dimensions: from the evangelization to the communion, from the God worship to the service of man. He realized in 1988 the twinning with the young diocese of Butembo-Beni (Democratic Republic of Congo) and celebrates the Second Diocesan Synod (1995-1996).
Among the many achievements of the fruitful service of the Episcopal Bishop of Giuseppe Malandrino (1998-2007), however, we remember the permanent popular Mission, as result of the Great Jubilee of 2000, the pastoral visit (2003-2006) and the successful reopening of the rebuilt Cathedral, June 18, 2007.