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Oratorio di San Lorenzo

583 Reviews

Oratorio di San Lorenzo

583 Reviews
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Mairwen1 wrote a review Nov 2020
United Kingdom3,567 contributions2,561 helpful votes
This is a tiny but stunning chapel to the left of St Francis’ church. I might have overlooked it but I was intrigued by the story of the stolen Carravaggio painting that was taken from the altar of the small chapel one night in 1969. Listed on the FBI’s list Top 10 Art Crimes, the nativity scene is the most valuable still-missing work of art in the world. Who stole it remains a mystery and it’s never been recovered. To add to the poignancy, it was one of the last paintings Carravaggio did. A year after completing it, he had died in unknown circumstances at just 38 years old. A life-size copy hangs in its place instead. Although it was the art-heist story that drew me in initially, the oratory really was very beautiful. Splashes of gold around the altar highlight the pure white of the rest of the oratory. The interior is entirely covered with snowy white stucco ‘putti’ (cherubs) and scenes from the lives of St Frances and St Lawrence. I’ve heard it called the cave of white coral. It really does look a lot like that. It is only small (just the one room) but the decoration is so detailed that we spent some time there. The cherubs are a playful tangle of chubby limbs and baby wings and are just gorgeous. It struck me that it would be impossible to concentrate on prayer and not be distracted by these fanciful, lively creatures. Other details include the exquisitely detailed mahogany pews, patterned with mother-of-pearl and ivory and the gruesome scene of St Lawrence who was painfully and slowly martyred by being tied to an iron grill over a fire of coals. In a brilliant display of bravado, he is supposed to have said before dying, “I am well done. Turn me over”. TIP - the ‘Circuito del Sacro’ ticket gives you a discount off the entry price for this and a dozen or so other churches. Just ask for it at the first church you visit.
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Date of experience: February 2020
14 Helpful votes
SeekerOfGoodValue wrote a review Oct 2019
Saint Louis, Missouri333 contributions130 helpful votes
Without the stolen Caravaggio, this Oratorio is much less compelling. If you are already nearby or you are in Palermo for more than two days, stop in. Otherwise, focus on better options.
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Date of experience: September 2019
marcus h wrote a review Oct 2019
Greater London, United Kingdom24 contributions30 helpful votes
A must see visit San Lorenzo. A small church in a side street of Palermo it is easily overlooked but take the time to find this church. Famed as the place where a Caravaggio was stolen from. It has a recreation of the picture Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence that gives a flavour of the original. All this we knew before visiting. What was an eye opener was the remains of the 3d 'pictures' in plaster (stucco work by Giacomo Serpotti according to the brochure). These have had many of the principal characters removed (stolen) nevertheless even in their reduced condition they are amazing. In addition there a riot of plaster cherubs frolicking on the walls, a very fine marble floor and take the time to look at the supports of the benches - finely carved saints (?). As it stands today it is exquisite - what must it have been like before it was pillaged. Well worth your time.n
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Date of experience: October 2019
1 Helpful vote
Ben1275 wrote a review Jul 2019
Oslo, Norway186 contributions77 helpful votes
A small oratorio with lovely statue work from the Baroque period. Definitely worth a visit as a representative example for many such buildings in Palermo.
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Date of experience: July 2019
mvidro wrote a review May 2019
Washington DC, District of Columbia363 contributions211 helpful votes
This quiet spot, with its wonderful marble floors and carved wooden benches, was formerly the home of an altarpiece of Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence by Caravaggio. Stolen in the 1960s, a reproduction (version 2.0) serves as a stand-in. While the plaster putti are a little over the top, it provides a good sense of "normal" rooms within which charitable foundations met.
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Date of experience: May 2019
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