Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Polizzi Generosa
The Church of Santa Maria Assunta di Polizzi Generosa, also known as Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, located in the upper part of the town at the foot of the hill dominated by the castle, is the main place of worship of the village.
The year of its foundation is not known but, according to historians, the church dates back to the mid-eleventh century, to the Norman era. The building was subsequently enlarged by Countess Adelasia di Adernò, granddaughter of the Great Count Ruggero, and mistress of Polizzi, and again in the Spanish era, under the Ventimiglias in Gothic style and remodeled several times over the centuries. The original Norman characters are recognizable under the sixteenth-century side portico, in the long and narrow window and in the ancient portal of San Cristoforo dating back to the fourteenth century.
The facade is enriched by the splendid sixteenth-century portal, by the wide access stairway and mighty corner bell towers. On the entrance door are placed The Massacre of the Innocents and The Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand Martyrs, works by Johannes de Matta, respectively tempera and oil on canvas, both of which can be placed in the fourth decade of 1500.
The internal layout is of a basilica type with three naves divided by pillars with capitals and pointed arches.
Inside the church there are works of great value among which the fifteenth-century Flemish triptych attributed to Rogier de la Pasteur, Flemish artist, pupil of Robert Campin, known under the pseudonym Rogier van der Weyden. It is considered the most beautiful Flemish painting in Sicily and is an oil on oak panel depicting in the central panel the Virgin cloaked in red with the Child on her knees, intent on scrolling through a book, seated on a throne under a canopy, flanked by four musician angels, two on each side. In the side panels there are two Virgin Saints depicted with the attributes of their martyrdom, on the left St. Catherine of Alexandria with the sword and a book, on the right St. Barbara with the palm and next to the tower where she was imprisoned. The features of the figures are of moving beauty, of a supernatural serenity, in the background a paradisiacal nature.
Among the other noteworthy works kept inside the church are: the baptismal font of the epoch Renaissance, marble artefact attributed to Giorgio da Milano which bears the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus on the outside of the basin in relief; the fifteenth-century marble sarcophagus bearing the recumbent figure of San Gandolfo on the cover tombstone, commissioned by the Jurors of the City and by the Procurator of the Chapel from Domenico Gagini in 1482; the silver urn which preserves the remains of the patron saint of Polizzi, the work of the silversmiths Andrea Di Leo, Nibilio Gagini, Giuseppe Gagini, Giovanni Zuccaro, built between the 16th and 17th centuries on behalf of the Jurors and of the University of Polizzi in 1549. The primitive casing is entirely covered with silver sheets, divided into niches interspersed with pilasters, containing the statuettes of the Apostles, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua and the Annunciation. The bust surmounts the artifact characterized by the precious features of the silvery face of San Gandolfo, a masterful work by Nibilio Gagini; the canvas by Giuseppe Salerno, the "Zoppo di Gangi", depicting the Nativity of the Lord and Triumph of the Eucharist dating back to 1616; the Marble triptych by Bartolomeo Berrettaro and Giuliano Mancino created with the collaboration of Francesco del Mastro. Careful analysis suggests the intervention of Antonello Gagini in the realization of the features of the realistic Poverello. The work depicts the Virgin with child between San Francesco d'Assisi and Sant'Antonio di Padova, commissioned in 1524, coming from the church of San Francesco.