San Giovanni degli Eremiti

Palermo, Italy

The San Giovanni degli Eremiti church dates back to the 6th century. After the establishment of the Norman domination of southern Italy, it was returned to the Christians by Roger II of Sicily who, around 1136, entrusted it to the Benedictine monks of Saint William of Vercelli.

The church was extensively modified during the following centuries. A restoration held around 1880 attempted to restore its original medieval appearance.

The church is notable for its brilliant red domes, which show clearly the persistence of Arab influences in Sicily at the time of its reconstruction in the 12th century, the Arab-Norman culture. However, the red colour of the domes are not original, as they were restored in the present way at the end of the nineteenth century by an architect who found pieces of red plaster on the domes and therefore decided to paint all the domes in red.

The church lies with a flank on a square construction. The church is on the Latin Cross plan with a nave and two aisles and three apses. Each of the square spans is surmounted by a dome. The presbytery, ending with a niche, has also a dome.

The cloister, enriched by a luxurious garden, is the best preserved part of the ancient monastery. It has notable small double columns with capitals decorated by vegetable motifs, which support ogival arches. It also includes an Arab cistern.



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Founded: 12
Category: Religious sites in Italy

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User Reviews

Lorna Laird (3 years ago)
Really loved it.
Gary Lloyd (3 years ago)
Great atmosphere, very relaxing to unwind
Fabio Villegas (3 years ago)
Interesting history of overlaping cultures leaving trace in architecture. Norman and Arab combination
Fabio Villegas (3 years ago)
Interesting history of overlaping cultures leaving trace in architecture. Norman and Arab combination
Ionut Sendroiu (3 years ago)
One of the most exquisite examples of Arabic-Norman architecture in Palermo is definitely the church of Saint John of the Hermits (San Giovanni degli Eremiti). It’s like a time capsule. Visited the place in June 2020, shortly after the coronavirus pandemic peak in Italy, so an appointment was mandatory. There's a handy application which can be used to book visits to all the museums in Sicily, so it was not a big deal for us to get an appointment. We’ve been the only three persons visiting the church at the time being. It was really a great experience, almost like a time travel. It’s not only about the church itself, the cloister, the garden, the vegetation, everything makes you feel like stepping in a remotely and isolated monastery from North of Africa. A painting of two saints reminding of the Christian Orthodox iconography is still visible on a wall.
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