Church of the Gesù

Palermo, Italy

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.

Architecture

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.

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Founded: 1636
Category: Religious sites in Italy

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