Taormina Cathedral

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Taormina Cathedral, dedicated to St. Nicholas of Bari, is one of the city’s most famous monuments. Together with the nearby Fountain in Piazza Duomo, it is one of the most photographed corners of Taormina. Built in the 13th century, the building has been modified several times in the following centuries. Its entrance portals are authentic masterpieces.

History and architecture of the Cathedral of Taormina

The construction of the Cathedral of Taormina dates back to the 13th century, on the ruins of a small medieval church dedicated to St. Nicholas of Bari. The building was modified several times in the 15th and 16th centuries, and in the 18th century it was restored by the Neapolitan architect Armando Dillon. The Neapolitan architect Armando Dillon restored the Cathedral of Taormina between 1945 and 1948, removing the Baroque stucco decorations of the interior. The current appearance is that of an “ecclesia munita”, that is, a “fortress church”. In fact, there are some architectural elements typical of fortifications, such as the crenellations on the external façades and the bastion tower at the back of the church. The main façade of the church is decorated with a large Renaissance-inspired rose window made of perforated Syracuse stone. Two other rose windows are located on the east and west facades.

The portals of Taormina Cathedral

Among the most interesting decorative elements of the Cathedral of Taormina are undoubtedly its three portals. The inner part of the main portal dates back to the 15th century, while the outer one is a remake of 1636. The latter recalls the appearance of a Greek temple, with two fluted columns in Corinthian style and a broken pediment above the architrave. On the jambs of the portal are carved eleven figures on each side, including St. Paul, St. Peter, the four Evangelists and the two Bishops St. Nicholas and St. Pancras. The west portal, on Corso Umberto, dates from the second half of the 15th century and has a lava stone frame. The bas-reliefs represent bunches of grapes, typical of Christian symbolism, while in the Taormina stone lintel, between Saints Peter and Paul, there is Christ Pantocrator. The other portal, on the other hand, dates back to the 16th century and is a splendid expression of Sicilian Gothic.

Interior and artwork of the cathedral

The interior of the Cathedral of Taormina is Latin cross-shaped with three naves and three apses. The nave is supported by six columns, three on each side, and has a splendid wooden ceiling with carved corbels reproducing Arabic motifs in the Gothic style. Inside the Cathedral of San Nicola di Bari there are some very interesting works of art, some of which come from other churches in Taormina. In the right aisle there is a Visitation with St. Gregory and St. Zacharias from 1457, which was originally in the Varò church. The polyptych by Antonello de Saliba, nephew of Antonello da Messina, comes from the former church of Sant’Agostino. The work, dated 1504, is composed of several wooden panels decorated with scenes inspired by the Bible. In the right aisle, near the entrance, there is instead the statue of St. Agatha from the church of the same name, destroyed by bombs in 1943, which belonged to the Convento di San Domenico.

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