Let's visit, together, the city of Bronte

You are in: Home–› Monuments–› The Nelson Dukedom–› Church of S. Maria–› The inside


Church of Santa Maria

The inside

The inside of the church of Holy Maria Of Maniace, lit up by eight arched windows, placed above the colonnades, is very austere and seductive.

The three naves with wooden ceiling trusses  and pointed arches in white stone, leaning, alternately, on eight mighty hexagonal and round columns in lava stone all of them surmoun­ted by Doric capitals.
Even if rich of works of extraordinary beauty and attraction, the church, as it appears, without apse and the chorus,  seems however cuts off, deprived of depth.

Recent archaeological excavations are however giving exhaustive answer about the original form: the base part of three semicircular building structures of remarkable thickness was in fact recovered.
They constitute without doubt the foundation of three apses of which the big access arches are well visible on the rear part of the church.

The excavations are visible inside the old duke's granary (today changed by the Council of Bronte in a big hall with a single wooden covering supported by trusses ("capriate composte alla palladiana").

Santa Maria di Maniace

On the high altar there is a splendid icon of the Madonna with Child (Santa Maria di Maniace, XII century).
Tradition attributes it to San Luca and tells that it was left there by the Byzantine general Giorgio Maniace in memory of the victorious battle against the Arabs (1040).

The icon of the Virgin breastfeeding the baby is a precious painting of classic beauty and shows unequivocally the presence of Byzantine figurative canons, as the position of the bodies, the brilliant and flat golden background.


The long and tapering hands of the Virgin, the red cloth wrapping up the baby and the initials in Greek letters.

But in this work, to the figures deprived of the classic Byzantine figurative tradition, is used such light to give an unusual fullness and density to faces and soft undulations to drapery.

The iconographic schemes are renewed by the diverse pictorial fashion which uses on the faces colour with deep clashes and hard glitter, with full, solemn figures laden with serene humanity and a masterly construction of the drawing.

The figure gains its pictorial density over the brilliant golden background.

The veil wraps the small face with the rhythmic drapery; the beautiful and slender hands support the light, suckling baby wrapped up in the thick dress’s weaving.

In the extremely composite context of XII and XIII century Sicilian culture this work assumes a particular importance as it documents the vitality and the vivid presence of the Byzantine figurative canons in the painting field, exactly during that artistic transition which shall last till the Renaissance’ threshold in the local artists works.

A triptych

A triptych, of the XIV century, painted on wood in Gothic style, is placed on the major altar over the icon of Santa Maria.

In the centre portrays the Vingin on the throne while breast-feeding the Baby and on the side panels the fathers of eastern and western monasticism; San Benedetto with cope and pastoral mitre and rules book (to the right) and (to the left), San Basilio in habit and pastoral a tau.

Above, in the utmost centre there is Christ crucifixion, with the Virgin and San Giovanni at the cross feet. In the lateral lunettes you can see, on the left, a bishop with a Greek pontifical dress, pastoral and book (San Nicola) and at right, a warrior with armour, crossed shield and lance (San Giorgio or Guglielmo II).

The figures on the panels stand out on the gilt background and appear realistically human, even keeping their strong symbolic charge.

Evident stylistic and constituent analogies suggest the hypothesis that even the altar-piece placed on the left nave, depicting Santa Lucia with her martyrdom’s attributes, and in the lunette the archangel Gabriel, could belong to the polyptych of the high altar.

Holy Lucia

The altar-piece of pyramidal shape (XI century), originally part  of a composition of seve­ral sections painted on board, represents Holy Lucia with the attributes of her martyrdom and, in the triangular part, the archangel Gabriel.

The image of the Saint, defined above by a rich frame, stands up on the bottom made of brilliant gold. The erected figure, expressed by a bulky mantle which wraps it up down to the feet, takes body and strength in the well modeled human features of the face.

The painting, indicated of Byzantine school, seems executed with a certain artistic autonomy, particularly in the use of the color. In fact, a high vital charge and a marked human importance modify here the traditional composition schemes and the iconographic models.

Clear stylistic and composing analogies suggest the hypothesis than also this altar-piece belonged to the polyptych of the major altar.

The Annunciation’s

On the back wall of the church, at the altar’s sides, there are two small sculptures in white marble: the Annunciation’s group and what was left of the original high altar constituted by the par aments with, at centre, the Agnus Dei and the reading desk, decorated with clusters.

Valuable examples of XII century Romanesque sculpture, worked in bas-relief, the two works represent the Angel Gabriel holding a lily and the Annunciated Virgin.

In the Angel’s wings, and specialely in the face of the Virgin and in the geometric rigour of her clothes, that almost cancels any physical sense, emphasizing the symbolic meaning, can be seen stylistic and figurative tracts typical of European medieval art. The Virgin’s body, without any physical indication under the dress that comes down straight, looses importance, annulled in the Symbol that She represents.

Madonna con Bambino

Another painting, possibly of an elegant Raffaello school, shows a  Madonna With Child.

The Baby, naked, gripped amorously to the breast of the mother, looks with eyes flooded with tender gratefulness her face.

In the feminine and delicate features of the Virgin face is suffused a spiritual sweetness, a sweet celestial way which remembers certain paintings of the central Italy. The naturalistic setting of the background completes the harmonious configuration.

The bright colours, the softness of the features and of the landscape, the overlapping of garments and the remarkable paysage’s dept give to the picture a rare beauty and a clear stylistic and figurative identity that take us to the artistic sessions of centre- northern Italy’ art of the ‘500.

Vergine della Seggiola

On the altar of the right nave is placed the painting of the Virgin Of The Chair, on a board of  80

He represents the Seated Virgin Maria with the child in arm, both in straight position  with glancing forward.

The figures well drawn  have in the solemn and austere bearing the signs of the divine nature.

The faces full of great serenity show up on the essential drawing of the garments wrapped in the much emphasized dark colors.

Translated by Sam Di BellaITALIAN VERSION


HOME PAGEPowered by DLC / Reproduction not permitted even if partial - Last adjournment: 01-2021