The 13th century Gothic style Santa Maria Alemanna Church in Messina was orginally constructed by Teutonic knights. The church is also known as Santa Maria degli Alemanni. It has lost its original function and is now being used for cultural events.
Santa Maria Alemanna Church Messina
History and description
The Order of the Teutonic Knights settled in Messina during the reign of King Frederick II of Swabia. The order founded both the Priory and the church around 1220. From then on, it was an important bridgehead for the crusades. The order retained possession of the church until 1485.
Until 1605, it was under the administration of the Magione Church in Palermo, after which it came to be run by the local Pia Casa di Sant’Angelo dei Rossi.
The 1783 earthquake caused the roof and main facade to collapse. During the reconstruction the facade was placed further back, so the church is smaller than it used to be.
In 1874, the city took possession of the building. The 1908 earthquake caused even more damage. Subsequent restoration works were interrupted by World War II, and only resumed in 1950.
The present wooden roof and west side window were added in 1994. Since 2001, it is used for events.
What to see
The three naves are separated by pillars supporting high, pointed arches. Capitals in the church are decorated with medieval symbols. One of these is the “Green Man”, a Celtic symbol of fertility, who is depicting sprouting twigs out of his mouth and ears. The Erinyes are mythological beings with wings and snakes instead of hair. Since they are supposed to represent the moral order, their depictions are found in the church apse. The capital to the right of the side portal is decorated with the bearded heads of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
There used to be also a hospital attached to the original church built by the Teutonic Knights. One of the people having been hospitalized here was Miguel de Cervantes, author of “Don Quixote de la Mancha”. He had been wounded during the Battle of Lepanto (1571).
Address: Via Santa Maria Alemanna, 48 – 98122 Messina. Hours and tariffs depend on the event.