It had been eight long years since I set foot in this church where my ancestors have celebrated many religious ceremonies in, for it has been closed to the public since 2010. I just couldn't stay standing outside its massive wooden doors any longer without out entering, so a couple of weeks ago I asked our local priest Padre Domenico, if I could take photographs of the interior and, thankfully, he agreed. As is the case every time I enter this structure, I am awed. How can anyone not be inspired upon entering and seeing the ornate baroque stucco that surrounds the altar? Even if you are not religious, it is an architectural wonder.
This is the Church of Santa Domenica, (La Chiesa di S. Domenica V.M.) in the town where my family comes from in Mandanici, Sicily. It's bones were built in the 12th Century. A bit of plaster had fallen away close to the altar, and I was shown the ancient foundation stone. The stucco, paintings and sculptures were added in 1696. Since I can trace my ancestors back to this town at that time, I know they gazed at this church when it was new, and now I visit it in disrepair.
The most famous painting is of the “Madonna Del Canestro” (Santa Maria Di Mandanici). They have speculated that artist Girolamo Aubrandi, who was a student of the famous Antonello of Messina, completed this painting in the 14th Century. The artwork on the altar is the painting of the patron saint of Santa Domenica, painted in 1768 by Giuseppe Paladino.
The paintings are wonderful, but the left angel that is above the altar has always enamored me. It is one of my favorite images I’ve ever taken in black and white, and it is a favorite of all who see it. The angel to the right of it no longer displays a face.
There are two other churches where worship is held, but this was the main place of prayer until 4 years ago. I was informed that it will require anywhere from 350,000 to 1 million Euros to repair the terra cotta tiled roof, which has been damaged by hail storms, age and water. For now, it is considered extremely dangerous to enter and I was only granted a short time within its stunning interior.
Money from the Italian Government is no longer available for restoration projects, which leaves the fundraising to the town, but with an aging and shrinking population of 600 souls that does not seem to be a viable solution. This breaks my heart.
My hope is that public money and the town’s fundraising will preserve this enchanted structure for many more generations.
Oh Dio, aiuta questa chiesa.
My favorite sculpture in the church is of this angel. Years of dirt and grim cover his/her face.
Exterior of the church from the courtyard. It is nestled in the middle of town.
The altar painting was completed in 1768 by Giuseppe Paladino
“Madonna Del Canestro”
All photographs are © 2014 Santa Fabio No Reproduction Rights Granted.
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