The history of the Saint Francis of Assisi Church starts with the arrival of the first Franciscans in Sicily. In 1224 the chronicler Vadingo reported the groundwork of the first Franciscan convent near the Walls of Palermo. However, shortly after, the local clergy with the support of the Saracens chased the friars out from the city. The friars went to Viterbo and appealed to the Pope Gregory IX.
The pontiff ordered Landone, archbishop of Messina, to promote the reconstruction of the convent. In this way the pope took advantage of the absence of Berard of Castagna, archbishop of Palermo gone to Germany with the Emperor Frederick II. Therefore, in 1235 the friars built a new convent by converting an old Byzantine fortification dating back to the military campaign of George Maniakes. In 1239, because of quarrels with the Pope, Frederick II decreed the building's destruction.
In 1255 the Vicar general of Sicily Ruffino Gorgone da Piacenza, chaplain of Pope Alexander IV, entrusted the reconstruction to the bishop of Malta, Roger. The work went on during the period of Charles of Anjou. In 1302 the main portal and the anterior façade were built, both in Chiaramontan-Gothic style. In the 15th century several chapels were built in Gothic and Renaissance style, including the Chapel Mastrantonio, the first manifestation of the Renaissance in Sicily.
Over the centuries the church became rich of artworks thanks to artists like Antonio di Belguardo, Antonio Scaglione, Giuseppe Giacalone, Francesco Laurana, Pietro de Bonitate, Gabriele di Battista, Domenico Pellegrino, Iacopo de Benedetto, Domenico Gagini, Antonello Gagini, Antonio Gagini, Giacomo Gagini, Giuliano Mancino, Antonio Berrettaro, Antonello Crescenzio, Cesare da Sesto, Mariano Smiriglio, Vincenzo degli Azani, Pietro Novelli, Gerardo Astorino and Giacomo Serpotta. As a result, the church represents a mix of different styles, mainly Gothic and Sicilian Baroque.
On 5 March 1823 the building was damaged by an earthquake. The church was restored in the Neoclassical style. Other damages were caused by the air raids during the Second world war. In recent decades the church was restored.
In 1924 Pope Pius XI gave the title of Minor basilica to this building. The church of Saint Francis of Assisi has an important role in the religious life of Palermo: in fact, in this church is enshrined the Simulacrum of the Immaculate Conception that every year, on the evening of December 8, pass through the streets of the historic center among thousands of believers who accompany the procession till the Piazza San Domenico.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.