The Monastery of Santa Caterina open to the public


The cloister       

From next Saturday, April 8, Palermo and tourists can visit, for the first time in its long history, the Dominican cloistered Monastery of St. Caterina in Piazza Bellini. The Monastery and its church are one of the most important monuments in the city. The building is unused for a few years, after the last elderly nuns, once famous for sweet extraordinary products,  had to leave because they can no longer guarantee the strenuous run.

Windows that overlook the cloister

According to the Superintendent and the leaders of the Fund buildings of worship of the Ministry of the Interior, the Archbishop’s Curia of Palermo, was entrusted with the management of the property, and decided to make available to visitors a significant part of the vast complex convent.

Father Giuseppe Bucaro in a moment of the press conference

The Monastery, which will again house a monastic community, will be home to an ethno-anthropological museum of the Dominican nuns cloistered and will host a center of theology of beauty. It will be an opportunity to study the theological content of our religious monuments, pray and contemplate the beauty that has been handed down.
Even the cloister will be recovered, planting historic plants that once lived there.

The chef Peppe  and Luigi Giuffrè have studied and tried the old recipes of the famous sweets of the nuns and will provide a tasting point open to the public.

The crockery

Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 Monastery of St. Caterina will be from 10.00 to 19.00. From Monday 10 until April 25, with the exception of Good Friday 14, it will be open from 10.00 to 15.00 hours.
It will enter in small groups. It will ask a contribution of € 3. The funds raised will go towards the restoration of the medieval portal of entry of the chapter house of the convent.

The stunning Barock altar in the Church

Holy Thursday, April 13, at 18.00 will be celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. After the celebration, the church will be open throughout the evening and the morning of Good Friday to visit the altar of Repose (the famous tombs are decorated according to the style of the Sisters).

A precious wax model of Baby Jesus

The Monastery of Saint Caterina is important because it is one of the few not to have suffered serious devastation in the difficult passage of religious property to the unitary State. There are elegant, harmonious and quiet spaces, objects made by the nuns, precious wax models, large kitchens.

The main kitchen

It is a rare example of a way of life, the image of a real city of God. The foundation of the monastery is due to the last will testament of the rich aristocrat, Benvenuta Magistro Angelo (Mastrangelo), married to Guglielmo conte di Santo Fiore and her mother Palma married to Ruggero, who was captain of Palermo after the uprising of the Vespers. In their current configuration, the builds stand around a large cloister with a central beautiful fountain of Ignazio Marabitti, surmounted by a statue of San Domenico. In a corner of the cloister you can see an obelisk (water tower) with the Dominican symbols. On the eastern side of the cloister is the medieval prospectus classroom capitulate. Currently, in addition to the Cloister you can visit the room of the prioress, the sacristy, the chapter house, the refectory and kitchens.

The refectory

Santa Caterina was a rich and powerful monastery that at the height of its prosperity, counted 400 sisters, most coming from the most noble families. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, “girls were forced by their families to take the veil, other girls  chose the monastic life freely for various reasons, some by vocation, others to avoid an unwelcome marriage”.

The window grill through which the nuns spoke without being seen

The social importance of the abbesses, the vast possessions of the Monastery can explain the society of the time. Around the walls complex intertwined relationships of political and social alliances. The nuns possessed slaves and, as it was until not long ago, they were joined by household for the most menial jobs.

Housed women suffering from disabling diseases and widows who decided to retire to a convent. In ancient times, they were famous for roses that were used to manufacture medicines or cosmetics purposes. Several fourteenth-century documents attest to the cultivation of roses in Santa Caterina Zisa and Sant’Oliva lands, were irrigated with water from the river Gabriele.


One of the halls of the Monastery

 The ceiling of the Church

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