The church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio is the seat of the parish of San Nicolò dei Greci (klisha e Shën Kollit së Arbëreshëvet in Albanian). It is known as “Martorana” and is located in the historical centre of Palermo.
Adjacent to the church of San Cataldo, it faces Piazza Bellini. Here it flanks the theatre of the same name and faces both the church of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria and the rear façade of the Praetorian Palace.
It owes its name to the presence of a female monastery to which King Alfonso granted the church in 1435. The monastery was built between 1143 and 1185 by Giorgio Antiocheno, a great Admiral of the Kingdom. As a symbol of thanksgiving for the protection received from the Blessed Virgin, he assigned the church to the Byzantine Greek clergy.
It was not until 1282, after the Vespers revolt, that the Kingdom’s major barons gathered in the church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio to swear allegiance to Peter of Aragon, the man who had supported the revolt against the Angevins.
Like other palaces in Sicily, this church underwent renovations over the years that resulted in a stark contrast of styles. This is the main reason why the façade contrasts the Baroque style with the wall surface in the Norman style. This is easily recognisable by the design of the arches, the small ogival windows and the presence of the dome.