advertisement

The Oratory of the Rosary of St. Cita is a far greater artistic treasure than the church of St. Cita, on which Allied bombs rained in 1943. Only a shadow of its former self, the church still contains a lovely marble chancel arch by Antonello Gagini. Look for it in the presbytery. From 1517 to 1527, Gagini created other sculptures in the church, but they were damaged in the bombing. In the second chapel left of the choir is a sarcophagus of Antonio Scirotta, also the creation of Gagini. To the right of the presbytery is the lovely Capella del Rosario, with its polychrome marquetry and intricate lace-like stuccowork. The sculpted reliefs here are by Gioacchino Vitaliano.

On the left side of the church, and entered through the church, is the oratory, the real reason to visit. This was the crowning achievement of the leading baroque decorator of his day, Giacomo Serpotta, who worked on it between 1686 and 1718. His cherubs and angels romp with abandon, delightfully climbing onto the window frames or spreading garlands of flowers in their path. They can also be seen sleeping, eating, and simply hugging their knees deep in thought.

The oratory is a virtual art gallery containing everything from scenes of the flagellation to Jesus in the Garden at Gethsemane. The Battle of Lepanto bas-relief is meant to symbolize the horrors of war, while other panels depict such scenes as The Mystery of the Rosary. At the high altar is Carlo Maratta's Virgin of the Rosary (1690). Allegorical figures protect eight windows along the side walls.