Churches in Sicily

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Photos of some of the most interesting Norman and baroque churches in Sicily.

Siracusa

Duomo, Siracusa

The facade of the Cathedral in Syracuse, a powerful Sicilian-Baroque composition erected in 1728-54. It was designed by Andrea Palma.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

On 11 January 1693 Sicily was struck by an earthquake destroying more than 70 cities and killing 60.000 people. As a result of the earthquake in 1693, whole cities had to be rebuilt. In Val di Noto (Noto Valley), many of the Baroque cities have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the justification, UNESCO writes: "The exceptional quality of the late Baroque art and architecture in the Val di Noto lies in its geographical and chronological homogeneity, as well as its quantity, the result of the 1693 earthquake in this region."

 

 

Detail of the ornaments of the baroque cathedral in Syracuse.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

The cathedral in Syracuse

Taormina

The cathedral in Syracuse.
Photo: Torild Egge

La chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia

The church of Santa Lucia alla Badia (La chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia) is located on the south side of Piazza Duomo. The Bavarian-baroque facade from 1695 is made of Luciano Caracciolo. Inside the church there is a very famous painting by Caravaggio (St. Lucia's funeral).

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

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La Martorana (Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio), Palermo

Sicily

Roger II receiving the crown directly from Christ and not the Pope. Mosaic in the Martorana, Palermo. The mosaic carries an inscription Rogerios Rex in Greek letters. After the Sicilian Vespers of 1282 the island's nobility gathered in the church for a meeting that resulted in the Sicilian crown being offered to Peter III of Aragon.[

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

 

Christ Pantocrator in Martorana (Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio), Palermo

Christ Pantocrator in Martorana (Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio), Palermo. The 12th century mosaics were executed by Byzantine craftsmen.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

The Church of the Gesù, Palermo

Sicily

The marble reliefs with their figural and ornamental motifs in the Jesuit Church of the Gesù are unique.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Termini Imerese

Termini Imerese Cathedral

The High Altar of the Termini Imerese Cathedral.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Noto

Noto cathedral - duomo

The baroque cathedral in Noto.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

The baroque cathedral in Noto seen from a low angle

The baroque cathedral in Noto seen from a low angle.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

The church of San Domenico (Noto) by Rosario Gagliardi

Noto: Detail of the church of San Domenico by Rosario Gagliardi from Syracuse.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

The cathedral of San Nicola di Bari in Nicosia, Sicily

Taormina

The belfry of the cathedral (duomo) in Nicosia anno c. 1907.

The cathedral of San Nicola di Bari in Nicosia, Sicily

Detail of the entrance of the cathedral in Nicosia anno c. 1907.

 

 

Sicilian Sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List

  • Agrigento: Archaeological Area of Agrigento (UNESCO)
  • Aeolian Islands: Isole Eolie. The group consists of seven islands (Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea) and five small islets (Basiluzzo, Dattilo, Lisca Nera, Bottaro and Lisca Bianca) in the vicinity of Panarea. (UNESCO)
  • Caltagirone (UNESCO)
  • Catania (UNESCO)
  • Cefalù Cathedral
  • Militello Val di Catania (UNESCO)
  • Modica (UNESCO)
  • Monreale Cathedral
  • Mount Etna (UNESCO)
  • Noto (UNESCO)
  • Palermo: Palazzo dei Normanni (The Norman Palace)
  • Palermo: Cappella Palatina (The Palatine Chapel in the Norman Palace)
  • Palermo: Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti
  • Palermo: Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (also known as the Martorana)
  • Palermo: Church of San Cataldo
  • Palermo: Cathedral of Palermo
  • Palermo: The Zisa Palace (La Zisa)
  • Palermo: The Cuba Palace (La Cuba)
  • Palazzolo Acreide (UNESCO)
  • Ragusa (UNESCO)
  • Scicli (UNESCO)
  • Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica (UNESCO)

 

 

 

Cefalù

Norman cathedral in Cefalù, Sicily

You walk down the narrow street called Corso Ruggero (Ruggero = Roger), and suddenly a piazza is revealed to your right with a magnificent church dramatically situated in front of the mountain Rocca di Cefalù. The Cathedral in Cefalù (Duomo Basilica Cattedrale) is one of Sicily's most important buildings from the Norman domination of the island. It was Roger II who started the construction in 1131.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Sicily

According to the historian John Julius Norwich (author of "The Normans in Sicily") the representation of the Pantocrator is the most sublime of all – "perhaps of Christ in any form in all Christian art". Construction began in 1131, the apse mosaics begun in 1145. After 1172 the church suffered a period of decline; the façade was completed in 1240. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1267 by Rodolphe de Chevriêres, Bishop of Albano.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

death in Cefalù

Detail of the exterior of the Church of the Purgatorio (Santo Stefano Promartire) in Cefalù.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

 

Halaesa Arconidea (aka Alesa Arconidea)

Next to the custodian's house at Halaesa Arconidea (aka Alesa Arconidea) lies a medieval church, Santa Maria delle Palate, with some original painted statues in wood and a Madonna and Christ holding a globe in their hands made by the Gagini school. During the Norman period the church housed a Benedictine monastery and cloister that belonged to the resident abbot of the Church of Saint Bartholomew in Lipari. The church was first mentioned in legal documents in 1123, and was restored by Pasqualino Scaluni in 1551.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

Detail of the crucified Christ in the medieval church Santa Maria delle Palate at Halaesa Arconidea.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

Chiesa di Sant'Orsola, Palermo

Chiesa di Sant'Orsola, Palermo

Detail of an altarpiece in Chiesa di Sant'Orsola, Palermo.
Click here for more on death in Sicily.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Sicily

Stucci by Giacomo Serpotta in Chiesa di Sant'Orsola, Palermo.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Taormina

Madonna della Rocca, Taormina

Interior of the church Madonna della Rocca, carved into the rock, above Taormina.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

The cathedral in Taormina, San Nicolò,  dedicated to Saint Nicholas

The cathedral, San Nicolò (a church dedicated to Saint Nicholas), built in the 13th century. Observe the crenelations on the roof. The portal was rebuilt in 1636. The fountain in front of the cathedral is baroque. The church occupies the area and the ruins of an earlier basilica. It was rebuilt in the 15th and 16th century and restored in the 18th century. Each doorjamb bears eleven carved figures showing some unidentified persons as well as Saint Peter with the keys of Paradise, saint Paul with the sword of Faith, king David with the cither, and the four evangelists: Saint Luke (the Bull), Saint John (the Eagle), Saint Matthew (the Angel), Saint Mark (the Lion). From 1945 to 1948, the church was fully restored by the Neapolitan architect Armando Dillon.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Monreale

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

Christ Pantocrator: The cathedral in Monreale, Palermo, is regarded as the most beautiful of the Norman churches in Sicily. The mosaics were made with 2200 kg of pure gold, experts have estimated. Craftsmen from Constantinople were employed to expedite the work. The Byzantine mosaics are among the most magnificent in the world.

The most common translation of Pantocrator is "Almighty" or "All-powerful". In this understanding, Pantokrator is a compound word formed from the Greek words πᾶν, pan (gen. pantos), i.e. "all" and κράτος, kratos, i.e. "strength", "might", "power". This is often understood in terms of potential power; i.e., ability to do anything, omnipotence. Another, more literal translation is "Ruler of All" or, less literally, "Sustainer of the World". In this understanding, Pantokrator is a compound word formed from the Greek for "all" and the verb meaning "To accomplish something" or "to sustain something" (κρατεω). This translation speaks more to God's actual power; i.e., God does everything (as opposed to God can do everything).

 

cathedral in Monreale, Palermo

Bust of the painter Pietro Novelli in front of the bell tower of the cathedral in Monreale, Palermo.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Chiesa Odigitria (Via B Civiletti) in Monreale

Chiesa Odigitria (Via B Civiletti) in Monreale was built by Greek-Albanian immigrants in 1596. The church has a frescoed ceiling by Pietro Novelli and stuccoes by Giacomo Serpotta.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

Gibilmanna

Sanctuary of Gibilmanna

The Sanctuary of Gibilmanna bathing in the evening sun.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Trapani

La chiesa delle Anime del Purgatorio (Church of the Souls in the Purgatory), Trapani. The facade was made by Giovanni Biagio Amico.

The elaborate facade of La chiesa delle Anime del Purgatorio (Church of the Souls in the Purgatory), one of the many baroque 18th century churches in Trapani. The facade was made by Giovanni Biagio Amico.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

La flagellazione: The flagellation of Christ (detail), one of the many sculptures used in the "Misteri" processions on Good Friday in Trapani.

La flagellazione: The flagellation of Christ (detail), one of the many sculptures used in the "Misteri" processions on Good Friday in Trapani. The sculptures are kept in the Chiesa delle Anime del Purgatorio (Church of the Souls in the Purgatory).

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Pulpit in the Chiesa del Collegio dei Gesuiti, Trapani.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Chiesa Santa Maria della Catena (Church of Saint Mary of the Chain)

Painting of Mary and Jesus  in Chiesa Santa Maria della Catena (Church of Saint Mary of the Chain)

A very interesting painting of Mary with the child Jesus at her breast is found in Chiesa Santa Maria della Catena (Church of Saint Mary of the Chain) close to Porta Felice in Palermo. Jesus is depicted as an adult and Mary's breast is exposed. The painting was later censored and painted over. It has now been restored, but you can see the new painting to the left and the right of Maria and Jesus.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Modica

Sicily

Children waiting in the Modica Cathedral.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Modica Cathedral

The cathedral in Modica.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

Ragusa

Chiesa di Santa Maria dell'Itria campanile, Ragusa Ibla

Chiesa di Santa Maria dell'Itria with its restored campanile. Ragusa Ibla viewed from Ragusa Superiore.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Duomo di San Giorgio, designed by Rosario Gagliardi

Duomo di San Giorgio (the cathedral), designed by Rosario Gagliardi. Built 1744-1775

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

 

Chiesa della Maddalena (church of Santa Maria Maddalena), Ragusa

Memento mori. Decoration over the entrance of Chiesa della Maddalena (church of Santa Maria Maddalena), Ragusa, first built in the seventeenth century and later re-built (18th century).

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

Caccamo

Sicily

Chiesa dell'Anime del Purgatorio (Church of the Souls of Purgatory), Caccamo.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

 

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Church of San Pancrazio (Chiesa di San Pancrazio), Taormina

Sicily

Detail of marble tomb (anno 1697) in the floor in the Church of San Pancrazio, Taormina. Saint Pancras (aka Pancratius / San Pancrazio) is the patron saint of Taormina. (Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily)

 

 

 

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