Former church of San Giovannello

LocationMarsala, Italy
Projectarch. Giovanni Nuzzo, arch. Domenico Nuzzo

Dating from 1441 and located in a narrow street just outside the centre of Marsala, the church of San Giovannello was largely destroyed by bombs during World War II. Restoration work began in the 1950s, overseen by local architect Domenico Nuzzo, who focused on the portal in the Chiaramontan style. One of the characteristics of this Gothic art movement that developed in Sicily during the 14th century is stone dressings with zigzag motifs on pointed archivolts.
However, work stopped soon after and didn't start again until 2018, when the Marsala City Council appointed the architect Giovanni Nuzzo to complete the project begun by his father. He quickly enlisted the help of a member of the third generation: his son Domenico.

The two architects again started restoring the entrance arch, heavily damaged not only by the bombing but also by exposure to external agents. They carried out a partial reconstruction using the ancient technique of lost-wax casting. In the same spirit of making the reconstruction obvious without altering the site’s historical authenticity, the architects filled the void left by the collapsed perimeter wall with 53 vertical cor-ten panels. The spaces between the panels allow passers-by to see inside, especially in the evening when the lighting is on and the panels are outlined against the light.

Some of the cor-ten panels were bent to symbolise the suffering of the war. There is a similar symbolic reference inside: in the apsidal area, which was also reconstructed as a cor-ten backdrop, a long vertical slit is made even more dramatic by the light of a Bright 1.0 recessed fixture emphasising its inner thickness.

And, at the end of 2020, it was light that returned this location to its place in the history of Marsala. Lighting breathes new life into this structure, in its new form en plein air. The Neva linear profiles with elliptical optics that light the external wall accentuate the remains of the variegated plaster, while the same profiles, with 11° narrow optics, pick out the partially reconstructed internal pilasters, enhancing the cornices and arches.

The choice of cor-ten outdoor projectors mounted on posts reinforces the feel of a new urban look for the former church of San Giovannello: an indoor space that has become an outdoor one; a church that has become a space ready to welcome the social and cultural events of the Marsala community.

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