The Church of St. Mary of the Admiral (Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio) is a Co-cathedral to the Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi of the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church, a diocese which includes the Italo-Albanian (Arbëreshë) communities in Sicily who officiate the liturgy according to the Byzantine Rite in the ancient Greek language and Albanian language.
The name Ammiraglio ('admiral') derives from the founder of the church, the Syrian christian admiral and principal minister of King Roger II of Sicily, George of Antioch. The foundation charter of the church is preserved and dates to 1143; construction may already have begun at this point. The church had certainly been completed by the death of George in 1151, and he and his wife were interred in the narthex.
In 1193-94, a convent of Benedictine nuns was founded on adjacent property by Eloisa Martorana. In 1433-34, under the rule of King Alfonso of Aragon, this convent absorbed the church, which has since then been commonly known as La Martorana. The nuns extensively modified the church between the 16th century and the 18th century, making major changes to the structure and the interior decoration.
The nuns of the Martorana were famous for their moulded marzipan, which they made in the form of various fruits. Although the convent no longer exists, frutta di Martorana are still one of Palermo's most famous and distinctive foodstuffs.
The Church bears witness to the Eastern religious and artistic culture still present in Italy today, further contributed by the Albanian exiles who took refuge in southern Italy and Sicily from the 15th century under the pressure of Turkish-Ottoman persecutions in Albania and the Balkans. The latter influence has left considerable traces in the painting of icons, in the religious rite, in the language of the parish, in the traditional customs of some Albanian colonies in the province of Palermo. The community is part of the Catholic Church, but follows the ritual and spiritual traditions that largely share it with the Orthodox Church.
The church is characterized by the multiplicity of styles that meet, because, with the succession of centuries, it was enriched by various other tastes in art, architecture and culture. Today, it is, in fact, as a church-historical monument, the result of multiple transformations, also subject to protection.
Since 2015 it has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site within the Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale itinerary.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.