The Church of Saint Dominic hosts the burials of many figures of Sicilian history and culture. For this reason it is known as the 'Pantheon of illustrious Sicilians'.
The origin of the building dates back to the Middle Ages. A first Dominican church was built on this site between 1280 and 1285. The church was in Norman–Gothic style and it was also fitted with a convent and a cloister that represented a small and simple reproduction of the more famous Benedectine cloister of Monreale. Inside this primitive church the son of James I of Cyprus, Odo, was buried in 1420 (or 1421).
At the beginning of the 15th century the medieval church became too small for the needs of a growing community of believers. For this reason the friars sought the financial aid of Pope Martin V and of the wealthiest families of Palermo. The new church was built in Renaissance style. However, through the natural course of time, also this building became too small for the liturgical needs of friars and believers. Therefore, in 1630, the Dominicans of Palermo commissioned architect Andrea Cirrincione to build a new church. Ten years after, on 2 February 1640, there was the groundbreaking ceremony. The work required many decades. The Baroque façade was completed in 1726, while the left bell tower dates from 1770.
During the Sicilian revolution of 1848, in this church the Sicilian Parliament was called under the leadership of Ruggero Settimo. In 1853 the church became the pantheon of illustrious Sicilians.
The convent, founded in 1300, is located north of the church and can be accessed from the latter's north aisle. The cloister, founded by the Chiaramonte family, has column and arches including manufacts from the early 13th century building.
The walls have paintings portraying Dominican saints, scenes of Apocalypse, of the Last Judgement and works by Nicola Spalletta from Caccamo. The interior houses a refectory and a large library.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.