Baptistery in Siculiana

Baptistery in Siculiana

Toni Pecoraro - CC1.0

The Chapel of the Baptistery in Siculiana, whose access is located in the left wall of the nave of the Sanctuary of the Crucifix, is the only precious example of medieval sacred Jewish art present in Sicily.

At the center of the chapel, with a round plan, is the baptismal font. It is a marble basin which is believed to be a kior, i.e. a basin used by Jews for ablutions in the 15th century. Initially it was believed that the basin was a monolithic marble sarcophagus, but the kior hypothesis is more accredited.
In the basin there is a Hebrew epigraph which reads: In the year 1475 : Samuel, son of Rabbi Yôna/Sib'ôn. Rest in Paradise.
In the basin there are also two coats of arms belonging to the Spanish royal dynasties of Castile and Aragon and date back to the years in which these two dynasties merged with the marriage between Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon ( 1469).
It is believed, given the elegance of the engraving lines of the epigraph and the heraldic decoration of the basin, that this was commissioned by a prominent figure of the time, probably a rabbi, who wanted to embellish it with precious decorations and, at the same time, pay homage to the rulers.
The chapel has along the walls, in the lower part, eight fine alabaster stone panels depicting scenes from the Old Testament: David killing Goliath; the Transport of the Ark to Jerusalem with David playing the lyre; Joseph and his brothers; Joseph receiving his father; Jonah vomited by the sea monster; Job praying with his wife and two nearby friends; the sacrifice of Isaac; Isaac blessing Jacob. The historical-artistic value of these panels is very high given that no other evidence of medieval Jewish sacred art can be found in Sicily. Originally these tiles were placed on the external sides of the basin and covered the ancient epigraph which proves the high historical and artistic value of the work.

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