Sanctuary of Annunciation

Sanctuary of Annunciation

santuario annunziata

The Sanctuary of ‘Maria SS. Annunziata’ rises in the Borgo (village or suburb) where there was a small 13th-century church dedicated to Santa Maria Nunziata. This church, along with the surrounding space, was donated by notary Ribaldo to the Carmelite Fathers after they arrived in Trapani, between 1224 and 1240. The friars transformed the church into a three-nave basilica of Chiaramonte Gothic style with an attached convent, completed in 1332. In the 18th century the church was transformed into a single nave by Trapani-born architect Giovanni Biagio Amico.

The current façade retains a 14th century Gothic portal with widened arches, multiple archivolts decorated with zigzags and small flowers. Above the portal is a rose window formed by a concentric frame and intertwined arcs of the same Chiaramonte Gothic style: restored several times, today it only preserves a small portion of the original.

Against the façade is a Baroque bell tower, built in the second half of the 17th century by Simone Pisano.

Today’s interior with its single, rectangular nave and vaulted ceiling, tall columns against the walls and stucco decorations is the work of architect Giovanni Biagio Amico (1741) completed in 1760 by Luciano Gambina.

Of the 14th century building remain the ribbed umbrella vault of the apse, a Gothic mullioned window and the cross vault of the lateral apse.

On the right side of the church is the small Fishermen’s Chapel (14th-16th centuries). It has a  square ground-plan with an octagonal wedged dome, decorated with frescoes depicting stories from the book of Genesis.

To connect the squared building to the dome, four pendentives were inserted, formed by widened arches in Arabian style. On the back wall there is a doorless oval portal, richly decorated with maritime and Chiaramonte motifs: some archivolts are decorated with zigzags, four-petalled flowers, with fish on the outer side.

The Sailors’ Chapel, to the side of the apse (left) is one of the most interesting examples of Renaissance architecture in Western Sicily. It was built in the first half of the 16th century by the ‘Consolato degli uomini di Mare’ (litt. Seamen’s Consulate). The chapel is square shaped, topped by a hemispherical dome. The style of the ornaments is fully Renaissance as evidenced by the architraves, shell motifs and rope or diamond stud decorations, all of which are examples of Spanish Plateresque style.

Two 16th century portals lead into the so-called Virgin’s Chapel, built at the behest of the Bosco Ventimiglia family in the 15th century. A marble arch by Antonello and Giacomo Gagini (1537) enriched by the figures of the prophets, delimits the space of the single nave from the presbytery where the valuable 14th-century marble statue of the Virgin and Child, attributed to Nino Pisano, is venerated.

Its slightly S shaped stance is typical of Gothic sculpture, the fine workmanship and sweet gazes of both the Madonna and Child make the statue the most significant example of Gothic sculpture in Sicily.

The altar is adorned with a silver-foil frontal from local craftsmen, donated in 1642 by Gian Domenico Spinola, Bishop of Mazara. The 18th century tabernacle, also in silver, is by  Vincenzo Bonaiuto of Trapani. At the foot of the Virgin lies a silver-coated relief map of sickle-shaped Trapani from the late 17th century.

In the adjoining room, decorated with variegated inlaid marble, is the chapel of St. Albert, the city’s patron, whose silver-coated statue dates back to the second half of the 18th century.

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