No longer as rich in treasures as it once was, the Oratory of San Lorenzo lies to the left of, and faces, the church of San Francesco d'Assisi. A local Franciscan order, Compagnia di San Francesco, commanded this oratory constructed back in 1569. Its stunning mahogany pews, laced with mother-of-pearl, were created during the 18th century and rest on carved supports.
Of extraordinary elegance, the interior's stucco decoration is the masterpiece of Giacomo Serpotta, who worked on it between 1698 and 1710. It features a series of 10 symbolic statues, plus panels relating the details of the lives of St. Francis and St. Lawrence. Art historians have written of these wall paintings as "a cave of white coral." Some of the most expressive of the stuccoes depict the martyrdom of St. Lawrence. Paintings alternate with statues of the Virtues. In total contrast to the serene Virtues and the solemn nudes is the cavalcade of putti, who romp gaily, making soap bubbles or kissing one another.
The Mystery of the Stolen Painting -- In 1969, a shocked art world learned that Caravaggio's last large painting, The Nativity, had been stolen from the Oratory of San Lorenzo, where it once hung over the altar. Caravaggio created the work in 1609, a year before his death. No one for sure knows who stole it, or for what motives, but what might have become of it has sparked off dozens of urban legends, including the one that it was shredded and fed to pigs. More than 40 years have passed, yet its whereabouts still remain a mystery.