The Church of the Gesù is one of the most important Baroque churches in Palermo. The Jesuits arrived in Palermo in 1549, and by the late 16th century began building a church adjacent to their mother house (Casa Professa). The original design called for a single nave with large transepts and several side chapels, but it was changed by the early 17th century, to a more grandiose layout typical of Jesuit architecture. Natale Masuccio removed the chapels' dividing walls to add two side naves to the central one. The church was consecrated in 1636.
The interior decoration included marble bas-reliefs on the tribuna depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds (1710–14) and Adoration of the Magi (1719–21), by Gioacchino Vitagliano, after designs attributed to Giacomo Serpotta - both reliefs survive. A fresco of the Adoration of the Magi was also added to the walls of the second side-chapel to the right by Antonino Grano in the 1720s. The church also contains a relief of the Glory of St Luke by Ignazio Marabitti.
In 1943, during the Second World War, a bomb collapsed the church's dome, destroying most of the surrounding walls and most of the wall paintings in the chancel and transepts. These frescoes were replaced during two years' restoration work, after which the church reopened in 2009.
The facade is divided into two sections by a cornice. In the lower part there are three portals, above are niches with statues of St Ignatius of Loyola, a Madonna with Child and Francis Xavier. The upper section is divided by pilasters and framed on both sides with corbels and statues of saints. The facade is surmounted by a curved-segmented gable and the Jesuit emblem. Masucci originally planned belfries, but these were not completed, and the current 18th-century campanile was built on the adjacent Palazzo Marchesi. Behind the church, the Jesuit chapter houses the town library.
The layout is in the shape of a Latin cross. The nave is decorated with polychrome marbles, stucco and frescoes. In particular, the marble reliefs with their figural and ornamental motifs on the pillars and the marble mosaics are unique. The rebuilt structure has a double dome and stained glass windows.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.