This Cistercian church was
built outside the city walls by Archbishop Walter Ophamil (builder of Palermo
Cathedral) in 1177/1178. The area in front of the building was the scene, in
1282, of an uprising by the citizens of Palermo against their French Angevin rulers (the so-called "Sicilian Vespers").
The style of the building reflects the austere simplicity of early Anglo-Norman Cistercian churches. The long sanctuary with its three apses merges with the transept, which has relatively short arms. At the crossing are four square-section piers, joined by Gothic arches (see notes on Palermo and Monreale cathedrals). The nave of the building is divided into three by massive circular masonry piers devoid of decorative elements, apart from the simple rectangular abacuses essential for spreading the weight of the superstructure. Externally, the church is seen to consist of two main volumes (sanctuary and nave/aisles), with double-pitched roofs. The walls of the apses and northern elevations are embellished with rich polychrome decoration (intersecting arches, disks and shell-shaped niches) consisting of inlaid volcanic glass.
A. Springer, "Die mittelalterliche Kunst in Palermo", Bonn, 1869
G. Patricolo, " La chiesa di S. Spirito", 1882
Melo Minnella Palermo