The Church of the Gesu (chiesa del Gesù), Church of Saint Mary of Gesu (chiesa di Santa Maria di Gesù) or Casa Professa is one of the most important Baroque churches in the Italian city of Palermo and the interior of Sicily.
Interior of the church.
The Jesuits arrive in Palermo in 1549 and in the late 16th century began building a church adjacent to their mother house (Casa Professa), to plans by the Jesuit architect Giovanni Tristano. At first it was formed of a single nave with large transepts and several side chapels but at the start of the 17th century, to make the church more grandiose as was typical of Jesuit architecture, Natale Masuccio revised the plan by removing the chapels' dividing walls to add two side naves to the central one. The church was finally dedicated in 1636. Later decoration included marble bass reliefs on the tribuna showing the Adoration of the Shepherds (1710–14) and the Adoration of the Magi (1719–21), by Gioacchino Vitagliano after modelli attributed to Giacomo Serpotta - both reliefs survive. A fresco of the Adoration of the Magi was also added to the walls of the second side-chapel to the right by Antonino Grano in the second decade of the 18th century. The church also contains a high relief of The Glory of St Luke by Ignazio Marabitti.
In 1892 the knight Salvatore Di Pietro, former rector of the Casa Professa, philanthropist, prefect of studies at the seminary, and member of the Theological College, of the Academy of sciences, letters and arts and of the Accademia di storia patria, by a decree of 1888, got the minister of public education Paolo Boselli to make the church a national monument. During the Second World War a bomb fell on the church's dome, causing it to collapse, taking with it most of the surrounding walls and most of the wall paintings in the chancel and transepts. These frescoes were replaced during two years' restoration work, after which the church reopened on 24 February 2009 with a solemn mass presided over by Paolo Romeo, archbishop of Palermo, and attended by several Jesuits and civil and military officials.
The facade is divided into two sections by a cornice. In the lower part there are three portals, above are niches with statues of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a Madonna with Child and Francisco de Xavier. The upper section is divided by pilasters and framed on both sides with corbels and statues of saints. The top of the facade is terminated by a blown-segmented gable and the Jesuit emblem. Masucci originally planned belfries, but these were not completed, and the current campanile from the 18th Century was built on the adjacent Palazzo Marchesi. In 1943, the building was heavily damaged by bombing, then painstakingly restored. Behind the church is a Jesuit house, the Casa Professa, now housing the town library.
The floor plan is in the shape of a Latin cross. The nave is 72.10 m long, 42.65 m wide and 70 m high and is decorated with polychrome marbles, stucco and frescoes. In particular, the marble reliefs with their figural and ornamental motifs on the pillars and the marble mosaics are unique. The dome was destroyed in 1943, then rebuilt with double dome and stained glass windows. www.pmocard.it