One of the most fascinating places in the city, Saint Mary of the Spasimo Church is located in the historic district of the Kalsa, one of the oldest in Palermo. Built around 1509, the works were never concluded. Some years later it became necessary to consolidate the city’s defense system. They were built new boundary walls around the church and in 1537 a fosse was made to dig where once there was the convent. In 1569 the Senate of Palermo bought the complex for military reasons and the monks were forced to move elsewhere.
In 1520 the building was enriched by a priceless masterpiece, “Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary” painted by the famous Raphael Sanzio, which in fact represents the spasm of Mary before Christ collapsed under the weight of the cross. After the transfer of the monks, the structure fell into disuse, then the viceroy of Palermo Don Ferdinand Ayala donated it to the Spanish King Philip V in exchange for advantages and favors. The painting remained in Spain and today is exhibited at Prado Museum in Madrid.
In 1582 the church was used as a place for public entertainment, but in the following century, because of plague it became necessary to use it as a hospital for the sick. After the outbreak, the rooms were used as a granary and a warehouse. In the half of the eighteenth century the ceiling of the main nave collapsed and it will never be rebuilt.
In the nineteenth century, the building was converted into a hospice for the poor and only in 1985 the first recovery works started.
Today the Spasimo hosts cultural events, theatrical and musical performances.
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