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 (3 months 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 (4 months ago)
Historic place very nice must see
Joshua Formentera (5 months 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 (10 months 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 (2 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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Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.