The Madonna dell’Itria ai Cocchieri Church in Palermo is named after the fraternity coachmen who founded the church. The main attraction of the church is its frescoed crypt.
Madonna dell’Itria ai Cocchieri Church Palermo
Address: Piazzetta Chiesa Cocchieri, 1 – 90133 Palermo. Tel: 0916165848. Opening hours crypt: from 09.00 to 13.00 and from 15.00 to 18.00. On Sundays the crypt is closed at noon. Admission: Free, but offers are welcome.
History and description
The Chiesa della Madonna dell’Itria was built between 1596 and 1611 by the Brotherhood of the Coaches (Cocchieri, in Italian).
The interior of the church, built on the pre-existing crypt, consists of a single nave and an apse. The two paintings on the side walls depict the “Madonna Odigitria” and the “Resurrected Christ.” The “Madonna Odigitria” is a medieval Christian iconography, depicting the Madonna and Child. The child is in upright position in Mary’s arms and holds a roll of parchment in one hand. With the other hand he makes a blessing gesture. Mary’s right hand points to the roll of parchment, thus indicating the way. (The meaning of odigitria is “the guide who shows the way.”)
Originally, the coachmen only used the crypt to pray in. Later it became a burial place for members of the Fraternity of Jesus and Mary. The frescoes on the side walls show souls being purified and allowed to enter heaven through the intervention of the saints.
Every year on Good Friday, the Cocchieri carried the statues of the Maria Addolorata and of Christ through the streets of the district. They wore clothing that indicated which house they worked for. The parade, in a slightly watered-down form, still takes place every year.