Church and Monastery of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria

Church and Monastery of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria, Palermo

Church and Monastery of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria

Church and Monastery of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria
4.5
Architectural Buildings • Religious Sites • Churches & Cathedrals
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Monday
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Tuesday
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Wednesday
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Thursday
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Friday
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Saturday
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sunday
9:30 AM - 6:00 PM
About
The church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is part of the monastery with which it shares the name. From 1311 to 2014 this monastery was the home of many cloistered nuns of the dominican order. ​Since 2017 it is possible to visit both the monastery and church as a museum. ​Inside the monastery there's the confectionary, where people can buy cakes and pastries realized with the old nun's recipes.
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4.5
482 reviews
Excellent
360
Very good
97
Average
16
Poor
3
Terrible
6

AmyJ20122020
Melbourne, Australia3 contributions
Dec 2021
On our first afternoon/evening in Palermo, we were recommended to visit this Church and Monastery. I found the interior of this Church and Monastery fascinating! And then, we went up to the roof for an absolutely stunning view of Palermo at sunset. I would certainly recommend a visit, if only for the views, particularly at sunset!
Written January 16, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

deedee1054
Virginia54 contributions
Dec 2021
There are better examples of Sicilian baroque. The decoration in this church is a bit of a mess. Go to nearby Martorana (mosaics) and San Cataldo (Arab-Norman architecture) instead.
Written December 19, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Nury
Lisbon, Portugal435 contributions
Oct 2021
One of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen. Huge, beautiful, breath taking. Highly recomend a visit.
Written October 16, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

IlyaNJ
Marlboro, NJ786 contributions
Sep 2021
We did not actually step into the church proper (I hear it is pretty nice, but Palermo is full of amazing churches). The differentiating factor here is the pasticceria in the monastery cloister, which is just an amazing serene place to linger for a while with a sweet of your choice.
Written October 7, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

1991KEB
Navarre, FL1,248 contributions
Sep 2021
This is an amazing church. The marble and the colors were incredible. The upper floor was I treating as was the roof. The little bakery with it was fun and had a beautiful outdoor sitting area.
Written September 16, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

phat_dawg_21
Alpharetta, GA12,242 contributions
May 2021
We did not visit this church when we were in Palermo in 2013. We visited the other two churches on Piazza Bellini but were put off by the austere and dull exterior.

This time we took the time, and it does take some time, to visit this church.

The interior is stunning!

Pay the extra fee and visit the roof. Do not stop at the first level. Keep going up the stairs and you will be rewarded with great views of the city and a close up view of what is on the other side of those beautiful barrel vaults you see in so many churches.
Written July 30, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Mairwen1
United Kingdom5,159 contributions
Feb 2020
Santa Caterina’s is modest from the outside, plain even, but the interior is lavish and ornate. It’s pure Baroque magnificence. I liked it a lot.

It’s one of 3 churches in Piazza Bellini. That is a lot of churches in the one small space. With limited time, we had to decide which one of the churches to go into. We chose Santa Caterina, mainly because we could also see the convent and nuns’ bakery (which is still making biscuits and cakes). However, the Baroque interior was unexpectedly stunning. You get the impression that the architects had a bad case of ‘horror vacui’ and simply could not bear to see a blank space left undecorated.

From 1311 to 2014 this monastery was the home of cloistered Dominican nuns. I found this fact remarkable. That’s over 700 years that this order of nuns lived and worked in the one place. I kept mulling over the thought that women who joined this convent in the 1300s probably made pretty much the same vows and led lives according to the same values and beliefs as women in the 1900s and 2000s.

The church you see now was built and consecrated in the mid 1660s. The frescoed domes, the spectacular high altar, and the 6 opulent chapels (3 on each side) are stunning, with a rich, overloaded mix of precious marbles, sculpture, stucco and paintings that create an effect of particular splendor and exuberant color. They definitely did not adhere to the ‘less is more’ school of design.

A couple of features are worth mentioning because they can be easily overlooked:

i) Foundling Wheel – this is very easy to miss amidst all the grandeur. You’ll have to look carefully for it on the wall on the far right hand side of the altar. It’s basically a hidden hole or hutch with a wooden turntable that allowed people to safely abandon an unwanted baby. One can only imagine the scene where, from outside the church, a desperate mother would anonymously leave her baby on the wheel, then slowly turn it so that the baby disappeared inside.
ii) Convent Bakery – they still make Sicilian sweets, cannoli and cakes according to the nuns’ traditional recipes. I bought several treats for later (see separate review of I Segreti del Chiostro)
iii) I was intrigued by the large mosaic of a small dog carrying a torch in its mouth, on the floor in front of the altar. It seemed an odd symbol to have in a church. Later I discovered that it’s the symbol for the Dominican order and that the dog is a kind of ancient Latin pun or wordplay. In Latin, ‘Dominican’ sounds like “domini canis” which means ‘dog of the Lord’. Not surprisingly that little joke had gone completely over my head.

NOTES:
i) Entry €3 (€2 with "Circuito del Sacro" ticket which has discounts for other churches too).
ii) A €10 combination ticket allows entry to the monastery and roof as well
iii) The Convent bakery can be entered separately for free. You will see a bit of the old convent grounds and the old laundry on the way to the bakery but you don’t see any of the church
Written November 7, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Siân
21 contributions
Sep 2020 • Couples
Beautiful church with a wonderful monastery garden and views from the roof. You can buy a ticket for just certain parts or the whole complex (whole complex is €10). There wasnt a dress code for women or men - but it is a church so should probably avoid mini dresses or cut out tanks for men.
Written September 21, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Mike D
Province of Naples, Italy119 contributions
Aug 2020 • Family
We visited both the church and monastery. The church has stunning artwork, beautiful stonework and carvings. It is absolutely worth the visit!
Written September 4, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Jen C
Haslingden, UK55 contributions
Aug 2020 • Couples
We came to this Church by chance as La Materna was closed. Inside is a Baroque masterpiece but equally enjoyable is looking around the convent next door. The nuns were not allowed into the Church for services, so they had side stalls to watch the services, a place for confession and a wooden wheel for receiving communion on. You also get to see the nuns living quarters which is very interesting. I had a real feeling of serenity in there and could see why life in the convent may not have been such a bad choice for many girls.
Written August 11, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Church and Monastery of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria

Church and Monastery of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria is open:
  • Sun - Sun 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM
  • Mon - Sat 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
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