On February 10, 2013, The Clergy (Roman Catholic, but dressed and acted Orthodox) had a service celebrating the restoration of this church. The Cardinal of Palermo was seated in the audience up front. The colors of the mosaics are very intess. Don't miss.
More stucco splendour awaits you at the Oratorio di San Domenico. Its colours are warmer than Santa Zita's, but Giácomo Serpotta's statues are just as vivid and life-like.
The elegant ladies in the niches, representing the Virtues, and the scenes from the Revelation of St. John in the oval panels, all are wonderful Baroque creations.The angels and putti that seem to be swirling everywhere, give the chapel a very playful atmosphere.
Above the main altar a painting by the Flemish painter Antoon van Dyck, Virgin of the Rosary.
No visit to Palermo is really complete without visiting at least one of the city's Baroque chapels. Two of them, only a few hundred meters apart from each other, are covered by one ticket. You should go to the Oratorio di Santa Zita first, as this is where the tickets are sold.
This oratorio is the master-work of the sculptor Giácomo Serpotta, whose bust can be seen at the entrance. This is baroque at it most exuberant, with angels in stucco work everywhere, playing, sleeping and making music.
Most impressive is the wall above the entrance door, in the middle of which the battle of Lepanto is depicted, where Spanish and Italian forces defeated the Ottomans. Around it and under the windows scenes from the life of Mary.
It's worth spending some time here to be able to see all the details, for example the emaciated boys above the door, symbol of the horrors of war. And don't forget the beautiful benches along the walls, featuring mother-of-pearl inlays.
While tourists crowd together in La Martorana, many forget to cross the street and visit this exquisite church. San Giuseppe dei Teatini was built in the 17th century and is a prime example of Sicilian Baroque.
You probably wouldn't tell so from the outside, but the interior is embellished to the extreme. I especially liked the vaults: every inch is covered with frescoes or stucco work.
Don't forget to admire the angels holding the holy water next to the main entrance.
The church opens in the morning and early evening.
Just a minute's walk from the Baroque splendours of Piazza Pretoria, and on the same piazza as the entrance to the Santa Caterina, two small churches stand side by side. Much the same age but very different in their interior decoration, they take you back into another world completely.
Step into the church dedicated to Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (Saint Mary of the Admiral) and the cultural fusion that was such a part of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily becomes very apparent. Possibly intended as a mosque but completed in the mid-12th century under the patronage of one of King Roger's Greek admirals (hence the maritime dedication), the foundation charter (still in existence) written in Greek and Arabic, its Romanesque belltower still standing, with many North African elements in its construction and much of the interior covered with wonderful Byzantine mosaics, it is an extraordinary testament to the time in which it was built. Later 16th century additions are frescoed in typically Baroque style but they pale into insignificance as your eye is caught by the glorious mosaics that completely cover the dome, the walls and the arches of the older sections.
The church became known as La Martorana in the 15th century when it became part of a Benedictine convent. The marzipan fruits known as Frutta Martorana and sold all over Sicily these days were the speciality of the nuns of this convent.
Although it was built at the same time, the little church of San Cataldo couldn't be more different from the church it stands right next to on Piazza Bellini. Whilst every surface of the Martorana is embellished with mosaic or fresco, San Cataldo is totally devoid of such surface decoration, the only ornament the carved capitals of the Byzantine columns that were taken from older buildings, the Arabic-style fretwork of the windows and the Cosmati stone mosaic floor. The lack of ornament allows the beauty and complexity of the Norman architecture to show clearly and creates a calm stillness that is most attractive.
The exterior of this church is quite extraordinary - with its three rosy-red domes atop a box-like cube, crenellated roof-line and star-fretted windows, it could easily be mistaken for a mosque or other Muslim building.
The church's interior was not meant to look like this. It was left unfinished when the man who commissioned it - Maio of Bari, an admiral and William l's chief emir (chancellor), the most important man in Sicily after the king, was murdered in 1160. It has had a rather mixed life - at one stage it was used as a post office! but it was fully retored in the late 19th century and was given over to the chivalric order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in 1937.
The altar and the Cosmati floor are orginal.
The Basilica of San Domenico (St. Dominick), off Via Roma, is an excellent example of Sicilian Baroque, noted particularly for its façade which was completed in 1726. When we were there in November this façade was further ornamented by a lacy metal structure adorned with angels and other Christmas symbols and decorations. It appeared that at night these would all have been illuminated, which must be quite a sight!
The Piazza in front of the church has a large memorial and contains several bars and cafes. To the east runs the Vucciria street market, well worth exploring.
Chiesa di San Domenico is just of Via Roma, at, naturally, Piazza San Domenico.
I always like the art and craftsmanship and skill that went into these churches, especially nice to step out of the ferragosto Sun for a while !
Find it at the very top of the Vucciria market. We had a many-days knack of only passing when this one was closed!
Had not found anything on the Chiesa di San Giuseppe dei Teatini that I could recall in any of the guide books but for all its outward anonymity, it rivals or surpasses any church in the city, complete with ceiling paintings alla Sistina ! Architect was Jacobo Besio Theatino.
The tiny Church of San Cataldo, located near the Martorana, was built around 1154 by Maio (or Maione) of Bari, who was the "Emir" or Prime Minister of King William I "The Bad."
Inwardly and outwardly, the church retains its twelfth-century ambience; it doesn't even have electric lighting. Externally, its most distinctive features are the three pinkish red domes or cupolas.
Even if you've already seen Saint John of the Hermits, San Cataldo is impressive in its austerity. The Church, which is a religious seat of the knights of the Holy Sepulchre, is open only occasionally but worth a look if you have a chance. Down the steps at street level, at the base of its foundation, are the remains of a Roman wall
It was begun in 1130, the year of Roger II's coronation as first king of Sicily, it was completed in thirteen years.
In it there is the visual enactment of the fusion of manifold characters making up Sicily: European, Sicilian, Byzantine and Arab.
The chapel is in the shape of a basilica, with three naves divided by granite columns with rich gilded Corinthian capitals.
The mosaics are the finest products of Byzantine art unrivalled in any of the existing churches.
Worth special mention are the Christ Pantocreator in the cupola, the Angels surrounding him and the Evangelists engrossed in their studies, which are the oldest mosaics.
Built in 1142 by the admiral George of Antiochia, then it was ceded to the Eloisa "Martorana" convent.
Norman construction with a quadrangular structure, wich make it similar to Byzantine Curches, was modified with Baroque elements. The splendid Byzantine mosaics of the inside decorate the church together with frescos and Baroque marbles.
Also known as Church of the "Trinita'"(Trinity), it is one of the last notable Norman buildings done in 1191.
From the outside the church presents a great variety of decorating motifs, in particular the elegant game of the blind arches interwoven at the top of the apses.
The remains of the Norman cloisters are on the left of the Church.
San Domenico stands at the back of a large Piazza which has at its center a tall religious column.It is a very large17C church with an 18C Baroque facade. Many prominent Palermans are buried here. You may not spend much time inside, but if you go to the right (in the picture) you will be in the Vucciria. If you go straight ahead to the rt. and then left around the apse you will be on the narrow via Bambinai on your way to the famous Oratorios that Serpotta decorated. One or both may be open. When you get there a sign will tell you.
La Matorana was built in 1143 and San Cataldo in 1160. The former got its name from an associated convent (long gone). They owe their raised positions from having been built on top of a partly demolished defensive wall from the Arab Citadel in this area. The Campanile of Matorana was built at the same time. In spite of Baroque encroachments La Matorana has fine old mosaics. They are as old as the oldest at Monreale. If you cannot go there, then a visit to la Matorana is a MUST. S. Cataldo's building was not finished with mosaics or marble (ran out of money?) and is severe. They charge admission to it. If you are not interested in Norman Romanesque architecture you may not wish to go in. We have created a Travelog for this area that should give you some ingight as to what they contain.