Time of year
Mairwen1 wrote a review Nov 2020
United Kingdom3 588 contributions2 598 helpful votes
From the outside, this is a large, plain Gothic styled church. It’s plain to the point of being austere. Construction began in 1254 and took just over 20 years to build. The main feature is the huge central doorway and tympanum with several rows of unusual contrasting zig-zag patterning. This dramatic arch was paid for by the noble Chiaramonte family. In the 13th century, they were the most wealthy and powerful in Sicily and were important enough to have their own Wiki page today. If you look closely in between the columns on either side of the doorway, you can see several symbols like a griffin and angels but these decorative elements are only small and easy to overlook. Above the portal is a rosette window and three panels with badly faded frescoes. They are ghostly images and are so pale that I could only make out what they were by taking a photo and zooming in on it. The largest central picture is Mary with baby Jesus. On the left is St Francis of Assisi and on the right is St Clare. St Clare gets prime position on the front of the church because she was one of St Francis’ early followers. When she was only a teenager she heard St Francis speak and was immediately captivated. She left her wealthy home to follow him and when her annoyed father tried to bring his wayward daughter back home, she refused to go, cut her hair, exchanged her rich gowns for plain clothes and set up her own religious order instead. I guess that’s what teenage rebellion looked like in the 13th century. Inside the church are various chapels for wealthy families and the very sad funeral monument for a young man, Nicolo Antonio Speciale, who died in the 1400s. He looks scarcely more than a teenager and was the only son an important magistrate. The white funerary sculpture shows the boyishness of his face which has not yet developed a masculine jawline. His think arms lie crossed across his sword and a small dagger is hitched to his belt. The Latin above describes him as great-hearted and a shining noble knight, taken too early. It looks as if a little dog is lying at his feet but the head has broken off at some point. Maybe a beloved and loyal pet? I also liked the relief of St George killing a serpent like dragon. He is spearing it clean through the mouth almost casually. He hardly seems to be raising a sweat.A series of female stucco figures by Giacomo Serpotta represents Franciscan virtues like Charity, Truth, Faith and Humility. Serpottos white chalky figures are quite beautiful (there are many more in the tiny San Lorenzo Oratorio next door which I would highly recommend – see separate review). NOTE: Directly opposite is Antica Focacceria San Francesco, which is worth seeking out when you’re ready for food.…
Date of experience: February 2020
7 Helpful votes
Ana L wrote a review Oct 2020
Navan, Ireland2 683 contributions1 026 helpful votes
Might not stand out like other churches in Palermo, but is definitely worth a visit, during your old town tour.
Date of experience: August 2020
Aburel wrote a review Jan 2020
Bucharest, Romania2 354 contributions444 helpful votes
A beautiful church, very charming, exquisitely decorated. However, for a strange reason only a few lights were on, jeopardizing the beauty of this place. If it is closed, ask the guys at the opposite amazing focacceria, they know for sure when it will be opened again...
Date of experience: December 2019
SeekerOfGoodValue wrote a review Oct 2019
Saint Louis, Missouri333 contributions130 helpful votes
The original interior was much altered, then - after earthquakes and bombings - restored to a simple gothic style consistent with Franciscan traditions. Side chapels include some renaissance and baroque material but the larger effect (exterior and interior) is more medieval. St. Francis provides a useful contrast to Palermo's many Byzantine and Baroque churches.…
Date of experience: September 2019
Bluerobin59 wrote a review Oct 2019
Warrington, United Kingdom3 134 contributions294 helpful votes
This is one of so many beautiful churches in Palermo. It’s free and it’s in use now . It has interesting features such as the statue in a glass case pictured and it is on a lovely square. We came across it by chance and were impressed by the peaceful atmosphere inside.
Date of experience: October 2019