Martorana Church Palermo

The Martorana Church in Palermo is actually called Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio Church. It is one of the oldest and most beautiful churches in the city. It is an Albanian-Italian church, where people follow the Orthodox Byzantine rite and Albanian is the liturgical language. The interior is characterized by some beautiful Byzantine mosaics.

Martorana Church Palermo

Address, opening hours and ticket price

Address: Chiesa Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio (nicknamed Martorana), Piazza Bellini, 3 – 90133 Palermo. Tel: (+39) 09161692. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 13:00 and 15:30 to 17:30; Sundays and holidays from 09:00 to 10:30. Admission fee: 2 Euro; students and 65+: 1 Euro.

History and description

Martorana Church Palermo - San Nicolò Icon
San Nicolò Icon

The Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio Church was erected in 1143 by Giorgio di Antiochia (an admiral of King Ruggero II). In the 15th century the church was given to the nearby Benedictine nunnery. This convent had been founded by Goffredo and Eloisa Martorana in 1194 and from then on the church was often popularly called La Martorana.

The central part of the church is formed by the sanctuary, which retains its original structure (a dome supported by four pointed arches). The architecture was typical of the Arab-Norman architectural style in Sicily.

Surrounding it are 17th century baroque naves.

Originally there was an open courtyard with a bell tower in front of the entrance, but this was changed into a covered atrium. The tower was erected in the 14th century and now forms the entrance to the church.

The interior consists of three naves and a cloister. For the columns, they used pre-existing Norman constructions.

What to see

Highlights are the Byzantine mosaics and the 17th century paintings underneath the choir, created by Olivio Sozzi and Guglielmo Borremans.

The presbytery has a square floor plan and dates back to 1685. It is decorated with different types of marble. The lapis lazuli tabernacle at the altar dates from the end of the 17th century. The “Assumption of the Virgin Mary” was painted by Vincenzo Da Pavia (1533).

Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio Church, Palermo

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