The Basilica La Magione
More than anything else, Palermo is awash in historic, beautiful churches. At least once a week, Jürgen and I will swear off visits to any further churches. “It’s enough”, we’ll cry! “We’re not even religious!” But then, we’ll read about another one, like the Magione. Founded in 1191. Used for three centuries as a lodge for the Teutonic Knights. Arab-Norman architecture. Five minutes from our house. With a lovely cloister.
“A lovely cloister, you say? Let’s do it.”
La Magione is certainly among the most picturesque churches we’ve visited in Palermo. Set by itself in Piazza Magione, it’s one of the few buildings in the city that’s not cramped claustrophobically between others. It was originally built for Cistercian monks, but soon given over the Teutonic Knights, who maintained one of their few non-German outposts in Palermo. A large stone cross pattée, which was the symbol of the order, still hangs on the walls of the church.
The Magione was built around the same time as the cathedral in Monreale, and like that church, contains plenty of Moorish influence. We noticed an Arabic script inscribed around the cloister’s water fountain, and the cloister itself had a lush, Arabic feel to it.
The oddest thing about the Magione is the mini-bar which has set up in its courtyard. Bizarre. An ugly little cafe with people smoking and drinking around a plastic table is about the last thing you expect to discover when you go to visit an historic church. But, cool in its own way.