1580 fresco showing Syracuse at Galleria delle Mappe Geografiche in the corridors of Palazzo del Belvedere in Rome
Syracuse was the town of Sicily which was most damaged by the growth of the Ottoman Empire, because of its location at the south-eastern tip of the island. In the middle of the XVIth century the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea was almost an Ottoman lake. Syracuse was protected by state-of-the-art fortifications but all trade relations, apart from those with Malta, were hindered by an almost permanent state of war between Spain and the Ottoman Empire.
S. Maria dei Miracoli: (left) portal; (right) 1501 relief (school of the Gagini)
The poor state of the economy had a negative impact on the construction of new churches and palaces, but nevertheless Syracuse has a number of statues and reliefs by the most important Renaissance sculptors who operated in Sicily.
S. Maria dei Miracoli: (left) niche which housed a miraculous image; (right-above) details of the niche; (right-below) detail of the portal
S. Maria dei Miracoli was redesigned and embellished in 1501 to thank the Virgin Mary for the end of a pestilence. It is very near Porta Marina and the harbour. The inhabitants of the neighbourhood used to pray before a lost painted image of the Virgin Mary and the end of the pestilence was attributed to her, hence the reference to miracles in the name of the church.
This funerary monument follows a traditional medieval pattern which was abandoned during the Renaissance for a more realistic depiction of the dead as in the Monument to Antonello Speciale by Domenico Gagini at Palermo. They are almost identical, but that at Palermo is three-dimensional and it shows the face of the dead.
Galleria Regionale di Palazzo Bellomo: altar from the Cathedral (XVIth century)
We do not know whether the monument to Cabastida was not much praised or the decisions he made as Dean of Camera Reginale were unpopular, but the other side of his gravestone was embellished with a relief and then utilized to decorate an altar of the Cathedral.
Galleria Regionale di Palazzo Bellomo: Monument to Giovanni Cardenas, Dean of Camera Reginale by Antonello Gagini (1506)
In ca 1460 Domenico Gagini, a sculptor who was born in 1420 at Bissone, today in Switzerland, but at the time a possession of the Duchy of Milan, resettled in Sicily. He, his son Antonello and the three sons of the latter had workshops in Sicily from where they made sculptures and reliefs for the main towns of the island. The image used as background for this page shows a detail of a madonna by Domenico Gagini at Palazzo Bellomo. See some works by Antonello Gagini at Galleria Regionale di Palazzo Abatellis in Palermo.
Galleria Regionale di Palazzo Bellomo: (left) Monument to Eleonora Branciforte d'Aragona by Giovan Battista Mazzolo (ca 1525) (see her bust by Francesco Laurana); (right) Faith and Charity
In ca 1510 Giovan Battista Mazzolo, a sculptor from Carrara in Tuscany moved to Messina where perhaps he worked with Antonello Gagini. He then established his own workshop. The monument to Eleonora Branciforte d'Aragona is regarded as his finest work.
Galleria Regionale di Palazzo Bellomo: Polittico di S. Maria del Monastero (XVth century)
The museum houses a fine Annunciation by Antonello da Messina, the main Renaissance Sicilian painter from a church of Palazzolo. Prior to being influenced by his works, local artists were still linked to patterns which had been already abandoned in other parts of Italy. Syracuse houses interesting early XVIIth century paintings by Caravaggio and Mario Minniti, one of his apprentices.
Plan of this section:
Agrigento - The Main Temples
Agrigento - Other Monuments
Catania - Ancient Monuments
Catania - Around Piazza del Duomo
Catania - Via dei Crociferi
Catania - S. Niccol˛ l'Arena
Palermo - Gates and City Layout
Palermo - Norman-Arab Monuments
Palermo - Martorana and Cappella Palatina
Palermo - Medieval Palaces
Palermo - Cathedral
Palermo - Churches of the Main Religious Orders
Palermo - Other Churches
Palermo - Oratories
Palermo - Palaces of the Noble Families
Palermo - Public Buildings and Fountains
Palermo - Museums
Piazza Armerina and Castelvetrano
Reggio Calabria - Archaeological Museum
Selinunte - The Acropolis
Selinunte - The Eastern Hill
Taormina - Ancient Monuments
Taormina - Medieval Monuments
Villa del Casale