NAME: Church of Santa Maria di Maniace / The Abbey of Santa Maria di Maniace / Ducea Nelson (Nelson’s Duchy) / Castello di Nelson (Nelson’s Castle) / Ducea di Maniace (Duchy of Maniace).
LOCATION: at Nelson’s Castle – Via Santa Maria di Maniace, 95030 Maniace CT, Italia.
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: The church was built around 1173, in honor of Giorgio Maniace’s victory over the Saracens.
HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE: The ancient church of Santa Maria di Maniace was built to house a miraculous icon of the Madonna which the Byzantine general, Giorgio Maniace had positioned on the battlefield. A few remains of the original church still remain, such as the apse which has been incorporated into the granary of the Abbey The new church, built together with the Benedictine monastery between 1173 and 1174, in the Norman Gothic style, boasts a marvelous example of a poly-lobed, Gothic arch portal.
INTERIOR: the church houses several precious works of art including: a triptych on panel depicting St. Benedict, St. Anthony Abate, and in the central panel the Virgin Mary with the infant Christ; a triangular altarpiece depicting St. Lucy and, in the pinnacle of the triangle, the Archangel Gabriel; two marble reliefs that depict the Annunciation with Gabriel and Mary; a painted panel of the Madonna and Child.
The Church of Santa Maria di Maniace is a classic example of Norman-Gothic architecture. The colonnade is in local basalt and the open A-frame wooded beam ceiling characterize the structure. The interior is illuminated by eight arched windows, placed above the columns. Largely reconstructed after the earthquake of 1693, the church has lost many of its original characteristics, along with some of its artistic treasures.
EXTERIOR: The portal with its poly-lobed pointed arches, built in marble and sandstone is part of the original 12th century construction. The cornice, ogival in form, is embellished with sculpted ribs. The arch is upheld by double sets of smooth, round columns. The capitals depict scenes from the book of Genesis and also monstrous, deformed beasts, inspired by medieval bestiaries (or, according to other theories, they represent the deadly sins).
Behind the church, where the storage areas were once located, excavations have brought back to light the ancient Norman apse of the church. At the time the monasteries had defensive towers or castles, thus explaining the structures that surround the church. The entire Abbey was donated to Horatio Nelson on behalf of the Bourbon King Ferdinand III in 1799 as recompense for his defeat of the so-called Parthenopean Republic. The earthquake of 1693 struck several parts of the monastery forcing the Basilian friars that lived there to transfer themselves to Bronte.
CONTACTS AND HOURS: tel: +39 095 690018
(Currently closed for restoration- Dec, 2016)
Winter hours (Nov-Mar): 9:00 – 13:00 and 14:30 – 17:00
Summer hours (Apr-Oct): 9:00 – 13:00 and 14:30 – 18:30
HOW TO GET THERE: by car you can arrive and park in front of the entrance to the Castle.