Walking around on my first full day in Palermo, I noted an interesting combination of church tower & building, one much older than its mate. Deathly hot & as usual under-prepared in the research department, I thought I'd stick my head in to check it out. I quickly found out there was a "donation" to go in, and will be forever glad that I went ahead & paid it. I am also glad I didn't know what to expect, as my reaction was so pure & intense, I felt a kinship with those worshippers back in the 12th century who must surely have felt they'd been afforded a glimpse of heaven.
This is the church of La Martorana, from 1143. Imagine coming from out of the heat and strong sun into this softly lighted interior, pulsing with color and gold ~
Reading the history of the church can make you feel slightly ill, especially upon finding out that the ancient main apse was demolished in the 1690s because it was considered too small. That meant that the Byzantine mosaics decorating the original apse were lost. It was then and on into the first half of the 18th century that the Baroque statues and other ornamentation were added. Restoration work was begun in 1870 by the Commission for Antiquities and the Fine Arts. The church was mostly restored to its medieval aspect except for the nave and the main apse, which were left unchanged. source: Palermo, The Churches of the "Martorana" and San Cataldo by Rodo Santoro
Much much more to show, so please revisit the thread. Thanks!
That is truly awe inspiring. I presume that it has been restored, cleaned, brightened in the last twenty years or so and thank god for that. Even if it were all dingy with grime, it would be amazing but all of the flashy gold and blue is clearly how it was meant to be seen.
I have to admit that when viewing the church, I rather resented the Baroque intrusion. But looking at the pictures now, I guess I'll admit that they have, if not melded, at least learned to coexist during the centuries ~
Thanks, Kerouac. To give you an idea of how awe inspiring it is, all those people in there were mostly silent. Further, even though it was a stifling box without a breath of air moving & everyone was sweating, there were no complaints -- people just kept quietly looking and taking pictures.
Outstanding. I've never seen a church combine the Byzantine and Baroque styles together--and I think I see a bit of Moorish influence as well. Crazy, but good crazy! Sicily is of course famous for its Baroque architecture, as I think there was some huge earthquake there early in the Baroque era and many the churches as a consequence ended up being done or redone in the then current style.
I too prefer the mosaics. Once a friend and I were in a church in Ravenna, where there was a combination of the old mosaics and more recent Baroque paintings. We were speaking French and saying how much nicer the mosaics were, and an old Italian lady turned to us and said, "You are right."
LaGatta, I haven't seen my own pics on anything bigger than this 11.6 laptop I'm using right now, so I guess they're okay little, too.
Fumobici, if you'll look at the 4th picture from the bottom in the last post, the lower arch, middle left, you'll see some of the geometric Byzantine stuff peeking through the sweety-pie Baroque overlay. The place you are thinking of is Ragusa, which went into Baroque overdrive after being mostly destroyed by an earthquake in the late 1690s.
Bjd, thank you! Stay tuned for more mosaics, as I also visited the Palatine Chapel, with its more famous works. But Baroque will get equal time, as I couldn't help but be seduced by the exuberant bambini and frills of Giacomo Serpotta.
Mossie, the little church shown here was definitely a high point of this trip. But the work in the Palatine Chapel may be even finer and more precise, as much of it is indistinguishable from painting.
Thank you all so much for the great feedback! Mick, I think lots of this ornamentation was probably seen by the artists and craftsmen as a good way to make some money &/or give vent to their artistic ideas. To me, the Baroque stuff especially seems more of an expression of "oh, cool -- we get to do clouds and baby angels and draperies and play with perspective!" more than a reflection of the artists' deep religious feelings. I have to say that the end result, regardless of religious belief or lack thereof, has that powerful effect, that visceral pow that great art hits us with.
At any rate, it turned out that the red domes which had initially attracted me did not belong to the glittering church I'd just seen. No, they topped the Chiesa di San Cataldo, which is right next door and entered through a red curtain covering a narrow door, after paying a small fee to the ladies there. Please remember that I was almost dead from the heat. Despite being lofty & made of thick stone, the churches of Sicily all used up their quotient of air during the past centuries & feature an atmosphere similar to the hot box in Bridge On the River Kwai. So perhaps you all will forgive me for my initial childish sense of disappointment, my desire for yet more gold and color. Really, it was only looking at my photos later that I fully appreciated the severe, exquisite elegance of this small church. The ladies must have been used to letdown expressions, as they hastened to draw attention to the floors.
Kerouac, I agree that its austerity is its beauty. I would definitely revisit this little church -- on a cooler day.
Bjd, this church is actually newer than the fancy one next door. I asked & was told that this is how it's always looked, that it was never painted or adorned. The founder died before the church interior was completed. www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/palermo-cataldo