Paintings in the Church Altar Area
The Church of San Sebastiano in Maniace (Catania) offers a large iconographic program of a total area of more than one hundred square meters. The paintings can be divided into two groups. The first corresponds to the area of the altar, the second - the Via Crucis.
The Altar Area includes the altarpiece, a cm. 275x 721 wooden panel; two semi-cylindrical niches size cm. 300x250. At the top a star with a diameter of cm. 400. The complex also includes an oval painting of the Mother of God, cm. 103x75, an icon of Christ that breaks the bread, a double-faced processional crucifix and two long and narrow panels of the altar table.
The composition of the central panel has as its theme: "The Church awaits the return of Christ" and it develops the scheme of Deesis (the Intercession) with in the center the Throne of Hetoimasia to which, addressed in an attitude of supplication, follow the Mother of God and St. John the Baptist, the Archangels Michael and Gabriel and the Apostles. The background with elements of architecture symbolizes the heavenly Jerusalem, all projected on a yellow sky, a symbol of the divine light as in the golden mosaics of the great cathedrals.
On top a eight points star-shaped panel to with a diameter of cm. 400 presents the Christ in Glory, that remembers the Pantocrator of Byzantine domes or in the main apse of the Norman churches of Sicily.
The right niche is divided into two compositions: top "The Wedding at Cana" and under "The Adoration of the Magi". The left niche houses an impressive stone sculpture that contains the ciborium. This has influenced the pictorial composition – on the sides of the sculpture there are two archangels as guards; on top - two seraphim at the ends of a protecting veil. All on a yellow background that evokes the golden fund of the mosaics of the Norman churches of Palermo, Monreale and Cefalù.
An icon of Christ breaking bread serves as the door to the ciborium. At the center of the right niche, the icon of the Mother of God of the Sign. Together the two icons on the left and right of the altarpiece, though of different sizes and shapes, evokes the imperial icons in Byzantine churches.
A double-faced processional crucifix is exposed before the altar. Two long and narrow panels are located on the base of the altar table.