San Martino delle Scale Abbey in Monreale
The Benedictine Monastery and the Abbey Basilica of San Martino delle Scale is a monumental complex that covers an area of about 20,000 square meters and is structured in a large quadrilateral divided into four sectors, two cloisters and two courtyards , beyond the cloister of San Benedetto, built around 1612 in the oldest part of the monastery, just behind the Basilica.
The birth of this complex probably dates back to the Norman period at the behest of Pope Gregory the Great. It was later destroyed by the Saracens in the 9th century, and rebuilt in 1347, at the wish of the Archbishop of Monreale Emanuele Spinola, by six Benedictine monks who worked under the guidance of Don Angelo Sinisio.
The abbey basilica, built on the pre-existing church at the end of the 16th century, it has a facade on three elevations without any significant architectural element.
The church has a Latin cross basilica plan with a single nave, transept, dome and 10 chapels, which also host Baroque altars. Of considerable value is the portal , a marble artefact bearing 20 scenes depicting the Paschal Mystery which is believed to be a relic of the old church of the XII - XIII century. The main altar is made of precious mixed marbles while the frontal overlooking the choir is in antique green. Behind we find the magnificent choir decorated with 68 stalls in carved wood, superbly worked in half relief. lacquered in gold and its 4000 rods. It was built in 1594 by the magister Raffaele Lavalle and subsequently enlarged and completed by Francesco La Grassa in the 19th century.
The Monastery of San Martino delle Scale represents the largest institution of the Cassinese Congregation in the Kingdom of Sicily .
The construction of the superb façade, characterized by the vestibule with an equestrian statue of San Martino and the poor, by Ignazio Marabitti, dates back to 1778. The Fountain of the Oreto leaning against the church by the same artist. A sumptuous eighteenth-century staircase with two flights, frescoed according to the Pompeian taste, introduces the Chapter room and the various eighteenth-century halls.
Inside the building there are the cloistered areas such as the dormitories and the two refectories: one called the Recreation and the other said of the Observance. In the latter, the monks eat their meals in silence, as the Benedictine Rule dictates, listening to the daily reading. Of considerable value is the fresco on the roof, which represents the biblical episode of Daniel in the lions' den by Pietro Novelli from 1629 and the large painting at the back of the room where the supper of Jesus at the home of Matteo Levi is represented. , attributed to the painters Mariano Smiriglio and Filippo De Mercurio, dating back to 1602.
There are several cloisters in the monastery of San Martino, but the best known is the one commonly called Chiostro di San Benedetto , built in starting from 1612 on several occasions in the area where another smaller cloister previously stood.
The cloister owes its name to the fountain surmounted by the magnificent statue of San Benedetto which stands in the center of the structure. The statue represents St. Benedict, with a head and hands in white marble, with two angels alongside, showing the Benedictine program in two marble tombstones. The work was created in 1728 by the sculptor Benedetto Pampillonia.