The Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani Church in Messina was constructed in the second half of the 12th century. It is also known under the name Annunziata di Castellamare. The main attraction of the church is a 2 meter tall 16th century wooden crucifix.
Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani Church Messina
History and description
The Annunziata dei Catalani Church was constructed between 1150 and 1200, when the Normans ruled over Sicily. It was built on top of an ancient temple dedicated to Neptune. This is before the Catalans came to Sicily, so in those days it was still dedicated to the Vergine Assunta.
When the Saracens took over, the Christian church was transformed into a mosque. After the return of the Normans, it again became a Christian place of worship.
After an earthquake in the 13th century, the church needed to be rebuilt. The facade was placed further back compared to its original position, which led to a shortening of the church.
In 1271, it was temporarily ran by the Dominican order.
Under the House of Aragon, the church became a royal chapel. Successive kings assigned the church to different groups or persons. One of these was a local order called “Brotherhood of the Greens”.
Toward the end of the 15th century the Catalans requested, and got permission, to run the church. The name was changed to Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani.
The church was partly damaged during the 1908 earthquake. After a restoration, it was reopened in 1932. Partly because of the rubble left by earthquakes and floods, the ground level of the church itself is lower than the one of its surroundings.
What to see
There used to be several crucifix-making workshops in Messina. An example of their work is the 15th-16th century crucifix gracing the church. This work of art used to adorn the Santa Maria di Elenuccia church, but had been lost after the 1908 earthquake. It was rediscovered towards the end of the 20th century, in a junk dealer’s shop. The cross itself and the head of Christ needed to be restored, but most of the rest of the work was still in good condition.
The altarpiece “Immaculate Conception” was painted by Tommaso Montella in 1606. Having been moved to a museum after the earthquake, it was returned to the church at the end of the 20th century.
The Church is also known as Santissima Annunziata di Castellamare. This is explained through its proximity to a fortress near the entrance to the harbor.
One famous painting that used to adorn the church can now be seen in the National Museum in Naples. The “Santa Maria dello Spasimo”, depicting the Madonna and child on the road to Calvary, wa painted vy Polidoro da Caravaggio.
Address: Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 111 – 98122 Messina. Phone: +39 090 6684111. Hours: 08:30 till 10:30. Tickets: Free entrance. (Note that times and tariffs may be subject to change.)