Chiesa della Martorana

( Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio )
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The Church of St. Mary of the Admiral (Italian: Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio), also called Martorana, is the seat of the Parish of San Nicolò dei Greci (Albanian: Klisha e Shën Kollit së Arbëreshëvet), overlooking the Piazza Bellini, next to the Norman church of San Cataldo, and facing the Baroque church of Santa Caterina in Palermo, Sicily, southern Italy.

The church is a Co-cathedral to the Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi of the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church, a diocese which includes the Italo-Albanian (Arbëreshë) communities in Sicily who officiate the liturgy according to the Byzantine Rite in the Koine Greek language and Albanian language. The Church bears witness to the Eastern religious and artistic culture still present in Italy today, further enhanced by the Albanian exiles who took refuge in southern Italy and Sicily from the 15th century under the pressure of Turkish-Ottoman pers...Read more

The Church of St. Mary of the Admiral (Italian: Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio), also called Martorana, is the seat of the Parish of San Nicolò dei Greci (Albanian: Klisha e Shën Kollit së Arbëreshëvet), overlooking the Piazza Bellini, next to the Norman church of San Cataldo, and facing the Baroque church of Santa Caterina in Palermo, Sicily, southern Italy.

The church is a Co-cathedral to the Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi of the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church, a diocese which includes the Italo-Albanian (Arbëreshë) communities in Sicily who officiate the liturgy according to the Byzantine Rite in the Koine Greek language and Albanian language. The Church bears witness to the Eastern religious and artistic culture still present in Italy today, further enhanced by the Albanian exiles who took refuge in southern Italy and Sicily from the 15th century under the pressure of Turkish-Ottoman persecutions in Albania and the Balkans. The latter influence has left considerable traces in the painting of icons, in the religious rite, in the language of the parish, in the traditional customs of some Albanian colonies in the province of Palermo. The community is part of the Catholic Church, but follows the ritual and spiritual traditions that largely share it with the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The church is characterized by a multiplicity of styles that meet, since, through the succession of centuries, it was enriched by various tastes in art, architecture and culture. Today, it stands as a church-historical monument, and subject to protection.

Since 3 July 2015 it has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale.

 
The divine coronation of Roger II of Sicily
 
The interior of the Martorana, before restoration (19th-century paintings).

The eponym Ammiraglio ("admiral") derives from the Syrian Christian admiral and principal minister of King Roger II of Sicily, George of Antioch, whose palace and property overlapped with the area, and who first patronized its establishment. The foundation charter of the church (which was initially Eastern Orthodox), in Koine Greek and Arabic, is preserved and dates to 1143; construction may already have begun at this point. The church had certainly been completed by the death of George in 1151, and he and his wife were interred in the narthex. In 1184 the Arab traveler Ibn Jubayr visited the church, and later devoted a significant portion of his description of Palermo to its praise, describing it as "the most beautiful monument in the world." After the Sicilian Vespers of 1282 the island's nobility gathered in the church for a meeting that resulted in the Sicilian crown being offered to Peter III of Aragon.[1]

In 1193–94, a female Benedictine convent was founded on adjacent property by the aristocrat Eloisa Martorana. In 1433–34, under the rule of King Alfonso of Aragon, this convent was attached to the church, which has since then been commonly known as La Martorana. The nuns extensively modified the church between the 16th century and the 18th century, making major changes to the structure and the interior decoration.[2] The monastery was suppressed in the 1866 suppression of religious orders.

The nuns of the Martorana were famous for their marzipan, shaped and dyed to resemble various fruits, known as Frutta di Martorana, still sold in pastry shops of Palermo.

In 1937 the church returned to the Byzantine rite with the Albanian community present in Palermo. The church assumed and inherited the title of seat of the parish of the Italo-Albanians in 1945, after the church adjacent to the Italo-Albanian Seminary of Palermo was destroyed in the Second World War. Today, it is still used by the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church for their services and shares cathedral status with the church cathedral of San Demetrio Megalomartire in Piana degli Albanesi. The church was restored and reopened for community worship in 2013. Clergy and congregation were momentarily welcomed in the church of the Santa Macrina of the Italo-Albanian Basilian nuns in Palermo during the restoration works.

The parish of San Nicolò dei Greci does not have a real parish territory, but is the reference point for 15,000 Arbëreshë (the Albanian community of Sicily historically settled in the province of Palermo) residing in the city.

Since 2015, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale.

Names
 
Marble plaque in memory of the Albanian hero Scanderbeg (1968)

The church was traditionally known as "Saint Nicholas of the Greeks", where the term "Greek" meant the adoption of the Byzantine rite and the use of Ecclesiastical Greek as liturgical language, rather than the ethnicity.

The church is now also known as "Parrocchia San Nicolò degli Albanesi", or "Famullia / Klisha e Shën Kollit i Arbëreshëvet në Palermë in Arbëresh language.

Other version include Klisha Arbëreshe Palermë ("The Arbëreshe Church in Palermo") or simply Marturanë. The title "Parrocchia San Nicolò dei Greci alla Martorana" means that the Italo-Albanian parish is now based in the Martorana church, and not at the initial location next to the Italo-Albanian Seminary.

^ Kitzinger, Mosaics, 15–21. ^ Kitzinger, Mosaics, 21.
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