I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Churches Of Palermo


Two of Palermo's most interesting churches are the Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (known as La Martorana) - which is on the left in my pic - and the Church of San Cataldo - which is on the right. (Note the three strange red 'golf balls' on San Cataldo's roof.) In both churches you can see a mixture of Greek (Byzantine), Norman and Arabic influences. They overlook Piazza Bellini - a square named after the composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835), Sicily's most famous musical son (not to be confused with the Bellinis of Venice, who were all painters.) You find references to Bellini all over Sicily. There's even a pasta dish - Pasta Norma - named after his most well-known opera.

In La Martorana the blue and gold mosaics decorating arch and ceiling are simply breathtaking...


As is the more austere but equally beautiful interior of San Cataldo...



Palermo's cathedral is a bizarre hybrid of the medieval and the Baroque - I'm not sure that central Baroque cupola harmonizes very well with those Gothic bell towers...





However its 15th century south portico is a masterpiece...



The church of Santa Caterina stands opposite La Martorana and San Cataldo on the other side of Piazza Bellini. Its extravagant, over-ornate, wedding-cake style did not do a lot for me, I must admit...


Though, as ever, if you looked carefully, there were some fascinating cameos of great charm and craftsmanship among the Baroque excesses, such as this relief marble panel depicting the story of Jonah and the whale...

7 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Love Palermo - especially the wonderful fish market - and the ice cream!

Bouncing Bertie said...

Such amazing art and architecture. Seeing pictures like this, I never know whether to be impressed by religion's power to inspire, or to be frightened by the way in times past, so much wealth and effort were devoted to creating an impression of the church's omnipotence....
Gail.

Tramp said...

Good to catch up with you again. These photos are lovely, I love the detail in the enlargements. Is it something about us Brits that we find Baroque architecture "over the top" especially in church interiors? Your comments are refreshing. All power to your elbow...Tramp

verena said...

the solitary walker can sense
the breathtaking quality of architecture
for he is
the

Space

The Solitary Walker said...

Weaver, the fish and the ice cream were sensational.

BB, yes, I think there's a lot of fear and awe and power and corruption in there. The more rococo it gets, the more it leaves me cold.

Tramp, I think Protestant countries do find it difficult to identify with the visual, tactile, colourful, ornate, confessional, effigies-and-relics panoply of Catholicism. We tend to feel the true heart, the essential meaning of Christianity gets lost beneath all the showy grandeur and complex ritual. But it's simply a question of cultural background and perspective - not a question of which religious body has the 'greater' truth. There is only one truth.

Verena, architecture is as much about empty space as it is about filling space, isn't it?

ksam said...

Space....

which might be why the over the top is hard to grasp if it's not your "native" tongue.

I come away feeling, sometimes, like something in the funnies...with each eyeball spinning like a pinwheel in opposite directions, trying to find a place to rest!

Catholic or Protestant...too much is, too much! But taken in small bites...wonderful.

So happy to see you back.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks Karin. It's good to be back.