Shrine of Christ the King

The Sacrario di Cristo Re (Shrine of Christ the King) in Messina is an imposing tomb built in 1937 to house the remains of those who died in the two world wars. The Baroque architecture was inspired by the Basilica di Superga, designed by the Messina architect, Filippo Juvarra. From the spot where the shrine is located, there is one of the best views of the Strait of Messina.

History and architecture of the Sacrario di Cristo Re

The Sacrario di Cristo Re in Messina was designed by Giovan Battista Milani and inaugurated in 1937. It occupies an area of 600 square metres in an area of the city where the castle of Rocca Guelfonia, also called Matagrifone, once stood.

Interesting fact: In 1191, Rocca Guelfonia or Matagrifone Castle hosted Richard ‘the Lionheart’ and his men on their way to the Holy Land during the Third Crusade.

Exterior of the Sacrario di Cristo Re

The Baroque temple has a central layout and is topped with a dome marked by eight ridges. At their base are bronze statues, fashioned by the Roman sculptor, Teofilo Raggio, and depicting the cardinal and theological virtues. On the dome is a six-metre-high lantern and a one-metre sphere on which stands a cross. The front of the entrance is adorned with two figures representing Italy and Messina, while on the entrance steps is a statue of Christ the King, made by sculptor, Tore Edmondo Calabrò. The Sicilian sculptor is also the author of the statue of the Madonna della Lettera which stands in the port of Messina, in the centre of Forte San Salvatore. Next to the church stands what remains of the octagonal tower of the old castle where a 130-quintal bell was placed in 1935. It is one of the largest bells in Italy, made by melting down the bronze from enemy cannons after the First World War.

Interior of the Sacrario di Cristo Re

Inside the shrine, there is a monument to the Unknown Soldier created by Antonio Bonfiglio. On the walls are the gravestones of 110 fallen soldiers from the First World War and 1,288 fallen soldiers from the Second World War, of whom 161 remain unknown. Most of the victims lost their lives in 1943 during the defence of Sicily. Another plaque commemorates the 21 sailors who died in the naval battle of Punta Stilo on 9 July 1940.

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