Room I


The ground floor exhibits some of the most representative works of the museum, among which, in the first room, there are:

A rock crystal lamp called Pigna, which means pine cone, because of its shape. It can be dated between 969 and 1250.

It is the most ancient work of the collection and it is classified as a crystal of the Fatimid era. It is made of a single block of rock crystal, sculpted with large notches in relief.  We don’t know the original use of this  work, probably a jar or an ornamental vase, or a lamp for the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament.

As reported in various historical chronicles, in the  17th  century it was used as a reliquary to carry the Sacred Hair of the Madonna in procession. After the 1943 bombings it was seriously damaged and substituted by a glass copy for the procession.


The Reliquary arm of Saint Marciano, first martyr and bishop of Syracuse has a conical shape and is made of silver, partially gilded. It is embossed and engraved with rhombi and lilies, the latter being the symbol of purity and virginity of Saints. A hand, blessing in the Greek manner, protrudes from the lace trimmed sleeve. The three fingers symbolize the Holy trinity, while the two joined ones are the symbol of the human and divine nature of Jesus Crhist. An inscription in uncial letters says that the reliquary contains a fragment of bone from St. Marcian’s arm and was commissioned by Richard Palmer, Bishop of Syracuse.  The reliquary was brought to Messina by Palmer when he became Archbishop of the city in February 1182.


A wood and plaster crucifix, from the private chapel of the D’Alcontres family.  It was taken there on being discovered in a ruined church after the 1908 earthquake.

It shows a slender figure of Christ with His arms outstretched, His head leaning slightly to the right with an expression of pain on His face, His eyes closed and His mouth slightly open, as if He were drawing His last breath.

The Cross is worked in a double layer of wood, and the upper layer has branches symbolising the Tree of Life.  The crucifix is attributed to the Pilli workshop of Messina and can be dated between  the end of 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century.

The three statues represent the Magi; they are made in an embossed and engraved silver lamina.

They were made in 1640 and are very accurate in the expressions of the faces and the details of the robes.  The statues used to be carried through the city streets by the Military Order of the Star in the Epiphany procession.

Historical sources narrate that the procession “… consisted of 100 of the city’s leading noblemen, in their gala robes and with the gold star on their breast,(…) all carrying burning torches, and, behind, under an ornate canopy carried by Senators in their togas, on a richly and nobly decorated silver stand, were the three statues of the Magi and, above them, the Star with the Crystal Vase in which the Hair of the Virgin Mary was lying (…)”.

Monstrance in fire gilded copper, portraying Isaac ready for sacrifice.  It is an extremely realistic picture and the characters’ facial expressions are quite striking, recalling this important Bible story clearly to the observer.

Isaac is lying on the pile of wood with his hands bound and his eyes blindfolded.  Abraham is looking towards Heaven and has his knife raised, about to make the sacrifice while the hand of the angel, in the upper part of the work, is reaching out towards him.

The gilded silver crown is decorated with emeralds and diamonds.  An inscription on the back refers the donor’s name and the date 1724.