Mother Church

MOTHER CHURCH

Mother Church
majestic is your facade.
Austere your baroque.
Marble columns of Corinthia
raise your Temple.
Resplendent altar
and spacious aisles
give glory to God.
Eight Flemish tapestries
augment your treasures.

Mother Church
the faith of your children
in your mystical body
lives and is renewed.
With baptism
you usher in life’s advent.
With your love
you guide us to eternal rest.

Mother Church
you are the alpha and the omega.

Mother Church - open

Left apse - open

Mother Church - open

MOTHER CHURCH (CATHEDRAL)

Its history starts in the Norman age.

The Arab geographer Al Idrisi, at King Roger’s service, narrates:  “…Marsala, once destroyed and abandoned, was restored by King Roger who belted it with walls so that it was repopulated and started having markets and shops…”

It seems it was constructed on an early Christian basilica, as was the Norman habit to build sacred places on pre-existing buildings of worship.

The Norman cathedral was erected around 1176 and dedicated to the English saint Thomas Becket who had become the symbol of freedom and human dignity, besides that of loyalty to Christ and his church.

The fight between the royal and ecclesiastical power cost him his life.  He is remembered for his martyrdom in numerous paintings.

Chancellor of England, he was then elected bishop of Canterbury.  Despite his close friendship with King Henry II, he was condemned to exile due to his obstinate pride.  He opposed the king who claimed the right for the secular courts in order to judge church people. He was assassinated in his cathedral on  December 29th, 1170 by four knights who thought they would please the king.  He was sanctified in 1173 by Pope Alexander III.

The monument has undergone important changes, including reshaping  and restorations.  Thanks to people’s cooperation and donations by private citizens and workers brotherhoods, the church was saved from deterioration.  It became a centre of Christianity and arts.  It has assumed a composite style in the various centuries due to the many architectural and stylistic influences.

Between the 16th and 17th century many brotherhoods were formed with the  supporters and workers entrusted with the maintenance and care of the chapels as well as the acts of worship that took place therein.  Besides the brotherhoods of carpenters, tailors, blacksmiths, and shoemakers who operated the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, others were founded:  that of farmers who took care of Saint Simon’ and Jude’s Chapel , that of peasants for Saint Christopher’s Chapel, and that of fishermen for the Chapel of Our Lady of Providence.

The Church was consecrated on August 31st, 1821 by Marquis Monsignor Isidoro Spanò, bishop of Nemesi.  Its mighty dome was finished a few years later.

The Apse
At the apse’s sides, against the pylons, there are both the statues of Saint Vincenzo Ferreri (1554) and Saint Thomas (1561), both attributed to Antonello  Gagini.  In the apse’s recess, there hangs a painting from 1656 showing Saint Thomas Becket’s Martyrdom  by Leonardo Milazzo.

Under this painting there is the big organ built in 1915 by Michele Polizzi and the marble altar built in 1929 by Michele Giacalone, a Marsala artisan.  The monumental wooden choir with eight high-backed chairs on each side dates back to the last century.

The Baptistry Chapel
A marble baptismal font of the 17th century topped with an octagonal wooden casket stands inside the chapel.  An 18th century canvas, of an unknown painter, depicts Christ’s Baptism.

Saint Christopher’s Chapel
The Chapel is dedicated to the wayfarers’ saint patron, and is cared for by massari, i.e.,labour men and peasants who clean the church.

Saint Rosalia’s Chapel
A sculpture called Our Lady of the Cave coming from the homonymous church stands on the altar.

Saint Mathew’s Chapel
It used to belong to the Salazar family.  It is named after the 18th century canvas of a unknown artist that portrays the Saint.

Sacred Family’s Chapel
An 18th century painting showing the Sacred Family is placed on the wooden altar decorated with glass painted by a local artisan.

Crucifix’s Chapel
The 18th century altar is of a late Baroque style.  It is covered with precious Sicilian marble and hosts a wooden 16th century Crucifix by Marsala sculptor De Crescenzo.

Our Lady of Help’s Chapel
On the altar there are Our Lady of Help,  also called Madonna della Mazza (Our Lady of the Club) from the beginning of the 16th century, and Family Liotta’s sarcophaguses, whom this Chapel belonged to.

 Holy Sacrament’s Chapel
It is supported by four of the oldest brotherhoods:  carpenters, tailors, blacksmiths, and shoemakers.

Upon their will it was adorned with a marble case structure with arch which underwent many changes.  The work was entrusted to sculptor Bartolomeo Berettaro who worked in cooperation with his brother Antonino.  After his death, the work passed to Antonello Gagini and his son, Giandomenico (about 1525-1527).

On the back chapel wall, over the altar, there are  four tablets with Saint Eligius, Oliva, John the Baptist, and Archangel Gabriel.  At the centre, there is the Chalice and Host tablet topped by a Crucifixion flanked by an Annunciation and Father God high above.

At the sides of the central tablet there are the twelve tablets depicting scenes of Christ’s Passion. In the two central circles placed high above there are Daniel and Jeremiah and on the altar step Christ and the twelve Apostoles.

Left Transept
On its altar there is a statue of The Sacred Heart  of the 20th century.  Over it there is a canvas with Saint Peter and Paul.

Holy Trinity’s Chapel
On the Chapel altar there is a painting of two Carmelite Saints Kneeling in Front of the Trinity, an oeuvre attributed to the beginning of the 18th century.

Our Lady of the Rosary’s Chapel formerly Pentecost Chapel
The Chapel is dedicated to the Pentecost as it appears on the painting over the altar.  Presently it derives its name from a wooden sculpture group of Our Lady and Saints Dominic and Kathrin.

Bishop Pascasino’s Chapel formerly Fishermen’s Chapel
The Chapel used to belong to the fishermen’s brotherhood who were in charge of the Christmas novena celebrations.  It hosted a small chalk Madonna called of the Providence and Good Advice.

On the altar adorned with various kinds of marble and glass there is a painting from 1979 showing Pascasino, Lilybeum Bishop (about 390-455), a man of faith who was greatly considered and admired by Pope Leo Magnus for his moral and spiritual qualities.

Chapel of the Four Crowned Saints formerly Masons’ Chapel
The masons’ and smiths’ brotherhood commissioned this oeuvre  in 1699.  Severus, Severinus, Carpoforus, and Victorinus, martyrs under Diocletian, are the subject of the painting.

Saint Simon and Jude’s Chapel formerly Coopers’ Chapel
The coopers were the chapel custodians.  A late Baroque painting with Saints Simon and Jude is placed on the altar.

The Chapel is also named Our Lady of Portosalvo (Safe Port)’s Chapel, who protects the men at sea, due to the presence of a wooden Madonna from 1593.

Saint John Nepomucenus’s Chapel or Smiths’ and Horseshoers’ Chapel
It was dedicated to Saint John Nepomucenus, who protects both the City of Prague and Confession Priests, who underwent martyrdom because he kept the confessions a secret.

A painting represents the Saint’s Apotheosis with a flight of angels who take him to the Virgin.

 

After a long period of construction, the vaulted dome of the nave was completed in 1902 along with the chapels adjacent to the high altar.  The floor and the presbytery marble altar were restored , and the dome  was raised at a higher level than before.