Friday, June 30, 2017

267. Baroque Razzle Dazzle

More hot weather as I wander the streets of Palermo – and the glare of the summer sun tells me to seek shelter inside – so I head around the corner from my apartment to The Church of Saint Mary of Jesus – however there was no sanctuary from the glare with the Baroque glitz inside quiet mind boggling !!! …

This Jesuit church is one of the most important Baroque churches in Palermo - and indeed, in all of Sicily – however the sedate Renaissance exterior belies what’s inside, so most tourists pass-up a closer inspection.

The Jesuits arrived in Palermo ( which was then under Spanish rule ) in 1549, and by the late 16th century began building a church adjacent to their mother house ( Casa Professa ) using a design by the Jesuit architect Giovanni Tristano – and in 1636 the church was finally consecrated.


Much of the interior decoration, including the highly ornate polychrome marble bas-reliefs, stucco and frescoes were added in the early to mid 1700s The marble reliefs with their figural and ornamental motifs on the pillars and the marble mosaics are unique and in 1892 the church was declared a national monument of importance.


In 1943, during the Second World War, an allied bomb collapsed the church's dome, destroying most of the surrounding walls and most of the wall paintings in the chancel and transepts. These frescoes were replaced during two years' restoration work, after which the church reopened to the public on 5th December 1954.

My poor camera had just as much trouble focusing as I did.

The reliquary in one of the side chapels contains a small bone portion from the arm of Saint Francisco de Borgia ( circular piece at the base of the plaster forearm ) - 1510 to 1572 – the patron saint against earthquakes ( amongst other titles ).

He was quite a pedigreed young man - He was born in Duchy of Gandía, Valencia on 28 October 1510. His father was Juan Borgia, 3rd Duke of Gandía, the son of Giovanni Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI ( Rodrigo Borgia ). His mother was Juana, daughter of Alonso de Aragón, Archbishop of Zaragoza, who, in turn, was the illegitimate son of King Ferdinand II of Aragon. ( so much for celibacy in the early church ... ).  In September 1529, Francesco married a Portuguese noblewoman in Madrid, Leonor de Castro Mello y Meneses. They had eight children. After his wife died in 1543, Francesco renounced his title and wealth to his eldest son, and joined the Jesuits and made quite a religious career for himself. After he was cannonized in 1670, his body was exhumed and various "bits" scattered around different churches ...



One has to be curious as to why there are so many naked cherubs ( male angels ... ) and naked men running around the place in Baroque church decoration ... I can imagine author Dan Brown having a field-day with all the different signs and symbols in this place - including this rainbow with a naked man sitting atop it ... !!! ... was it a sign of times to come ... ??? ...


The Jesuit Brother's private side chapel - in dazzling white - must have made quite a contrast to their sombre sinister hooded black robes.



The church these days is the number one hit spot for society weddings in Palermo - with just a couple of masses held early Sunday mornings. During my hour and a half of wandering around the church, the Sacristy, the Crypt and a small on-site museum, I met only a half dozen fellow tourists - and one very aged Jesuit priest who shuffled along on his walking frame stopping every meter or so to hoist his trousers up - he was very startled when I passed and whispered in my best Aussie-attempt-at-Italiano, " buongiorno padre " - so much so he headed for the nearest chair, sat down and promptly fell asleep - mind you, he was still in the same position an hour later when I again passed him - hope he is ok ... !!! ...

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