Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio Church

Palermo, Italy

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.

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Details

Founded: 1143
Category: Religious sites in Italy

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ionut Sendroiu (2 years ago)
A church with an amazing story! Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio (Church of the Admiral) was built about 900 years ago by Muslim constructors for an Orthodox Christian admiral – George of Antioch. He paid mosaic crafters from Constantinople to come all the way to Palermo for decorating his church with stunning Byzantine mosaics. One of the mosaics depicts George of Antioch himself praying to Virgin Mary, while another one shows the Norman King Roger of Sicily receiving the power and crown directly from Jesus. After the death of the admiral, the church became Catholic and starting from XVI century went under several transformations and restorations. It even received a Baroque facade, in sharp contrast with the Norman Arab architecture of the rest of the building. Currently, some of the Byzantine mosaics, displaying messages in Greek language, are still visible near the Catholic frescoes painted in XVIII century, while the high altar is Baroque. Since George of Antioch was fluently speaking Arabic, there are also some Arabic inscriptions on two of the columns, so the mixture of styles and influences in this church is really mind-blowing.
Barend Van Der Sluijs (2 years ago)
Historic place very nice must see
Joshua Formentera (2 years ago)
The Church of St. Mary of the Admiral, also called Martorana, is the seat of the Parish of San Nicolò dei Greci, overlooking the Piazza Bellini in Palermo, Sicily. The church is beautiful 12th-century church the interior is best appreciated in the morning, when sunlight illuminates the magnificent Byzantine mosaics. Amazing how the works was done in the most stunning mosaic executed by the Greek artisans. Highly recommend to see the not to big not too small church. AMAZING AND BEAUTIFUL.
Thomas Berwick (2 years ago)
Superb small church, well worth seeing. Entry was about 2 euros, which also also gives you access to some of the other churches.
Marcus Hurley (3 years ago)
We then went inside the Church of St Mary dell Ammiraglio which still uses Greek Orthodox rites and is a mix of baroque and Byzantine interior design. It predates the Norman Palace chapel by a few years and has yet more of the glorious golden mosaics.
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