Chiesa Matrice & Torre di Federico

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Via Rabata, Erice, Italy

Chiesa Matrice & Torre di Federico Erice Reviews

spocklogic spocklog…
325 reviews
Mother Church of Erice Aug 01, 2014
Just north of Porta Trapani (Trapani gate - one of the 3 main gates of Erice) is the Chiesa Matrice, also known as Chiesa Madre (Mother Church) or Duomo dell'assunta (Cathedral of the Assumption) and La Torre di Federico (The Tower of Frederick). The tower was built in the early 14th century (1312) as a lookout tower by Frederick of Aragon (1272-1337) who was king of Sicily from 1295 until his death. Apparently the Old Kingdom of Sicily once included southern Italy and the island known today as Sicily until it was split into two parts due to the War of the Sicilian Vespers. Charles II of Naples was granted the mainland, while Frederick III was granted the island as a result of the peace of Caltabellotta in 1302. There was a short peace, but war would resume. Frederick spent some time in Erice in the ensuing wars and built the tower originally as a watchtower to look out on the Mediterranean. It was soon converted into a bell tower and the church built to accompany it. There are many many churches in Erice, but this is the main one, and earns it its namesake: the Mother Church of Erice.

Like many things in Erice, it was likely built over existing structures and the tower itself may have existed in some form since the Punic Wars in Roman times around 200 AD. It's also common to recycle building material in Erice, especially using Greek or Roman structures existing there. This was done by the Normans in the 10th and 11th centuries and likely in the the centuries that followed into the middle ages. The facade and portico are a later addition dating to 1426, which may have been to adorn an otherwise boxy looking building. The church suffered some structural damage in an 1853 collapse and a reconstruction of it was necessary, which was completed in 1865.

The dimly lit interior, therefore, is primarily 19th century. The treasure of the church is the Madonna with child by the Italian sculptor Francesco Laurana (1430-1502), but there are many other fine works of art inside as well, including the cathedral itself, with 3 naves separated by columns and decorated pillars. A survey of art works inside include silverware, jewellery, alabaster, ivory, painting, sculpture, coral, gold and silk embroidery or tapestry, all dating from the period between the 14th and 19th centuries. The Tower of Frederick is worth the climb to the top (28 m up with 108 steps) for some great views of Erice and also a birds eye view of the church, which when viewed from above appears as a Latin cross. You would never notice this from ground level and it's only apparent when viewed from above.

An excellent and thorough description of the church I found on Palermoweb. Most descriptions are rather brief, but this site gives some details of the building and art inside that I could not find elsewhere. The website is in Italian, but can be translated with google if desired. I give the link here:
Chiesa Matrice & Torre di Federico…
Chiesa Matrice & Torre di Federico…
Chiesa Matrice exterior - Erice
Chiesa Matrice interior - Erice
5 / 5 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
spocklogic says:
I think is may be more common than people imagine that the deep history of some structures contain interesting narratives of their original use and/or built upon existing ruins, using materials lying about.
Posted on: Oct 02, 2016
Paulovic says:
Cool to know it had another purpose before!
Posted on: Oct 02, 2016
spocklogic says:
It's the Erice way, and much of the city is built from pieces of many cultures and different eras. The bell tower provides some of the best overall views for seeing the city and gaining some appreciation that there seems to be no definite plan to it, and the various parts were just built here and there over the centuries to take on the state it has today, which has remained this way mostly since the late 19th to early 20th century.
Posted on: Dec 30, 2015
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