The matrice church of Sant’Alfio in Lentini (province of Syracuse, eastern Sicily) preserves a Marian icon dating back to around 1240, in more than satisfactory condition. It is called 'Madonna del Castello' since it was initially kept inside the urban fortress, following its reconstruction at the initiative of King Frederick II in the years 1223-1239. It is a large panel painting (almost two meters high) depicting a full length Virgin with the Child in her arms: the sacred image conforms to the iconography of the Hodegetria. Some seventeenth-century sources provide valuable information on the legendary origins of the icon, which «on June 24 of the year 1240» would have been found on the beach of the nearby coast; the same sources tell us about the several transfers that took place over the centuries, about the cult of the icon, and about an ancient restoration (1665), during which the dedication «LUCAS AD LEONTINOS» was rediscovered at the feet of the Virgin (and not made on that occasion, as previously suggested). The palaeographic reading of this detail likely suggests that the inscription dates back to the time of the execution of the painting. The 'Madonna del Castello' therefore has all the requisites to be considered an image with the function of palladium, on the model of the Byzantine imperial icons: financed by local notables, painted by the Evangelist, arrived from the sea, preserved within the military stronghold of the city, with its saving power it has protected the local community from wars and natural disasters for centuries.

La 'Madonna del Castello' a Lentini: un’icona-palladio dalla Sicilia federiciana, fra storia, memoria e leggenda.

Simone Piazza
2022-01-01

Abstract

The matrice church of Sant’Alfio in Lentini (province of Syracuse, eastern Sicily) preserves a Marian icon dating back to around 1240, in more than satisfactory condition. It is called 'Madonna del Castello' since it was initially kept inside the urban fortress, following its reconstruction at the initiative of King Frederick II in the years 1223-1239. It is a large panel painting (almost two meters high) depicting a full length Virgin with the Child in her arms: the sacred image conforms to the iconography of the Hodegetria. Some seventeenth-century sources provide valuable information on the legendary origins of the icon, which «on June 24 of the year 1240» would have been found on the beach of the nearby coast; the same sources tell us about the several transfers that took place over the centuries, about the cult of the icon, and about an ancient restoration (1665), during which the dedication «LUCAS AD LEONTINOS» was rediscovered at the feet of the Virgin (and not made on that occasion, as previously suggested). The palaeographic reading of this detail likely suggests that the inscription dates back to the time of the execution of the painting. The 'Madonna del Castello' therefore has all the requisites to be considered an image with the function of palladium, on the model of the Byzantine imperial icons: financed by local notables, painted by the Evangelist, arrived from the sea, preserved within the military stronghold of the city, with its saving power it has protected the local community from wars and natural disasters for centuries.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/5011862
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