ORATORY OF THE ROSARY, Presentation

Audio File length: 2.31
English / USA Language: English / USA

Hi, my name’s Jill, and I’m your personal guide. Along with MyWoWo, I’d like to welcome you to one of the Wonders of the World: the Oratory of the Rosary.

The Oratory of the Rosary, at the Church of Santa Cita, is a marvelous masterpiece by the stucco artist Giacomo Serpotta.

Oratories were places in which members – noblemen or rich merchants – would gather to recite the rosary, or a series of Hail Marys, sometimes followed by psalms. This custom grew following the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, when, according to legend, prayer induced the Madonna to overturn the Muslim fleet with wind, thus allowing for a Christian victory.

To decorate the Oratory, the Company of the Most Holy Rosary of Santa Cita, one of the wealthiest and most prestigious in Palermo, engaged the renowned stucco artist Giacomo Serpotta, at the peak of his fame at the time following the success obtained in two other oratories in the city. In 32 years, between 1686 and 1718, the artist created a magnificent masterpiece that brought a luminous, sophisticated ambience to the oratory.

On the walls, you can see the Joyful and Sorrowful Mysteries, in which the figures interpret the sacred scenes, surrounded by putti mimicking the major scenes.

Take a close look at the wall at the entrance, under which the notables sat, where you can see a magnificent stucco panel depicting the Glorious Mysteries and the Virgin handing the rosary to Saint Dominick, above the scene with the Ships at Lepanto. The famous battle is not illustrated, but eloquently symbolized by the boys below: the victor, on the left, represents Christianity, while the one on the right, threatened with guns, disconsolate and with a hand raised to his turban, represents the defeat of Islam.

The altar was built between the late 18th and early 19th century, while the magnificent canvas depicting the Madonna of the Rosary, by the great Roman painter Carlo Maratta, dates to 1695.

 

Let me leave you with an interesting fact: thanks to a particular technique known as allustratura, the secret of which the last member of the Serpotta family took with him to the grave, the plaster sculptures were polished with a paste made from wax and marble powder to make them shiny.

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