Second in importance only to Palermo’s Cathedral, the Chiesa di San Domenico is a church found in the Vucciria neighborhood. Originally constructed between 1458 and 1480, the church sits away from Via Roma at the back of the plaza that shares its name. With its impressive Baroque facade and its sheer size, we couldn’t resist taking a peek inside.
The sculptor Giacomo Serpotta was born in Palermo in 1652, and died there as well, eighty years later. Though he never left Sicily, he achieved a great deal of fame throughout the world for his incredible Rococo stucco pieces. The Oratory of Santa Cita, which he worked on for nearly half his life, is his masterpiece.
Although it’s tucked into the maze-like alleys of the Albergheria, the Casa Professa (or the Chiesa del Gesù, as it’s more officially known) isn’t difficult to find. Just head towards that beautiful green and white tiled dome, visible over most of the neighborhood’s rooftops. One of southern Italy’s most spectacular Baroque churches awaits.
Exquisitely detailed ligneous benches with patterns intertwining mother of pearl and ivory rest upon the crimson marble floor. Splashes of gold in the chandelier and around the altar only serve to highlight the pure white of the rest of the oratory. A reprint of a work from Caravaggio hangs at the front of the room. (But why a reprint … ?)
Near Palermo’s Quattro Canti is the Church of Santa Caterina, whose modest exterior belies the Baroque magnificence waiting inside.
Construction on the church began in 1566, but the interior decoration dates from the 17th and 18th centuries, when Baroque was at its height, and the Catholic church was encouraging intricate detail and emotional themes.