In Sicilia: Going for Baroque (Part 1)

Chiesa di San Domenico exterior

For our next day’s venture, we headed to the Chiesa di San Domenico. Our visit offered a first view of Sicilian baroque, the upside of an earthquake’s destructive force:

Devastated by the earthquake of 1693, Sicily had a perfect opportunity to experiment with the very latest architectural fashion, the hugely extravagant baroque style. [citation]

A review of a new-ish book on the subject, The Baroque Architecture of Sicily, expands on the theme:

The catalogue of environmental disasters that have afflicted Sicily now makes it all the more crucial that international conservation bodies weigh in before there is a further collapse of an irreplaceable heritage. As Giuffrè says, Palermo ‘gave and received, reinvented itself, and brought forth order out of chaos. History is not just a heritage to be received and transmitted. It is in a constant state of evolution. Therefore there is no one history to be told about the Baroque in Sicily, but a thousand different stories.’

Sicily everywhere ’embraced’ the prevalent international languages of those times – thought and expression – which stimulated ideas, events and encounters so that cultural horizons widened to incorporate new aims. The ‘otherness’ of Sicily springs precisely from her outwardly striving cultural identity. There might be less referencing to Rome, yet much to Madrid and Paris.

I can’t say the Chiesa’s baroque over-the-topness appealed, but I nonetheless marveled at the sheer fact of it, the meticulous skill required to bring it to life.

Our next stop was the Mercato del Capo, where Nicoletta Polo, the Duchess of Palma, shops with those who sign on for her cooking class. We weren’t able to partake during our visit, but here’s an entertaining report from someone who did.

After depositing the shopping in our apartment, we set out again for an evening stroll.

Read Going for Baroque (Part 2) here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Listening List

Antonio Vivaldi, Concerto in G Minor for Flute and Strings, RV 439, “La notte” 

Many of Vivaldi’s compositions carry a descriptive phrase of some kind, alluding to a work’s original performers, technical features, or programmatic details. The Concerto in G Minor for Flute and Strings, subtitled “La notte” (“The Night”), presents an episodic narrative over the course of a night through its unusual six-movement structure. However, it is not a sleepy work, but a restless nightmare. Two of its movements bear titles: the second movement, “Fantasmi” (“Ghosts”); and the fifth, “Il sonno” (“Sleep”). The work is part of Il gardellino, Op. 10, a collection of six concertos written for the flute (the only Vivaldian anthology written for an instrument other than violin).

The complete program notes, from which the excerpt was taken, may be found here.


An alternative performance, with recorder, and approximately 1m 30 seconds shorter, may be found here.


Credits: The sources for quotations may be found at the links in the text. As always on the blog, the photographs, unless otherwise indicated, are mine.