Of the many precious works of art enriching Treasure stored in the Duomo Museum, the chalices, typical elements of faith enclosed in the mystic beauty of worship, stand out for their elegance.
Visitors are often attracted by the astonishing splendour of one of them: a chalice covered with red coral decorations (pods, flowers, leaves, small cherub and putto heads, angels, plant trophies, etc.) covering its stem and base. The chalice, in copper cast-in-place and lamina, embossed, chiselled or finished with a lathe, is also decorated with cast, lathed brass, hammered silver lamina, gold-plated with a mercury, sealing wax mix.
Created in the XVII century, it became part of the St Carlo Treasure on 25 September 1683, bequeathed by Carlo Francesco Airoldi, from one of the most important families of Spanish Lombardy, formerly nuncio in Florence and Venice, consecrated archbishop in partibus of Odessa, who died in Milan on 7 April of that year and was buried in the Duomo.
During restoration works in 2013, they discovered a coral loss of 20% the original total, but in an inventory of 1800, the chalice had already been described as “very damaged”.
The chalice, presumably sent to Carlo Francesco by someone from the Airoldi branch who moved to Palermo at the start of the XVII century, was probably made by craftsmen from Trapani together with Lombard goldsmiths. In fact, during the 17th century there was a rich gold production by numerous artists present in Sicily working in the precious arts, generally from the Como area.
There is documented collaboration between master Trapanese coral-workers, Sicilian goldsmiths and of northern origin. The red in the Airoldi gift chalice is not only evidence of an age’s splendour. But also of the meeting between knowledge and processing techniques combining the land of St Agata with that of Ambrose and Carlo.