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Santa Maria dello Spasimo

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HISTORY

It is an unfinished Catholic church located on Via dello Spasimo, in the Kalsa neighborhood of Palermo, Sicily. The construction of the church and adjacent monastery of the Order of Olivetas was approved by Pope Julius II and began in 1509 on land donated by Giacomo Basilicò, a widowed lawyer whose late wife belonged to a very wealthy noble family. The Virgin's Fainting, in Italian Lo Spasimo della Vergine, was a rumor that spread across Europe in the late Middle Ages, according to which Mary had fainted during the Passion of Christ, most likely while she was watching the Crucifixion of Jesus. It was based on accounts contained in the apocryphal gospels and for this reason it ended up giving rise to a controversy that caused its veracity to be denied from the 16th century onwards. Before that, however, it is estimated that almost half of the paintings painted between 1300 and 1500 depicting the Crucifixion contain the image of the Virgin fainting.

WHY THIS PLACE

The church commissioned the painter Raffaello to paint Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary, or Lo Spasimo di Sicilia, as it is also known. The work was completed around 1514, but in 1622 the Spanish viceroy of Naples managed to have it sold to Philip IV of Spain, so much so that it is currently in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The church was never completed as, due to the growing Turkish threat in 1535, resources intended for the church were diverted to be used in fortifying the city against the incursions of the “infidels”. Although unfinished, Santa Maria Dello Spasimo is a wonderful example of the late Gothic architecture that permeated the buildings of Palermo at that time, and a clear testament to the Spanish influence in the city.

CURIOSITIES

Currently the church hosts musical, theatrical and cultural events in the open air because of the lack of the roof.

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