Erythraean Sibyl


Throughout the ancient Mediterranean, sibyls–priestesses, prophetesses, and seers who were described as having healing powers inspired by Apollo–responded to faithful pilgrims’ requests for guidance and grace. These women were well-known for their work, attracting visitors from far and wide. The most famous is perhaps the Delphic Sibyl (at Delphi in Greece). The Cumaean Sibyl, who practiced near Naples, for example, is attributed to predicting the coming of the Savior, Christ. There was one that practiced in Marsala, which I’ll discuss in another post. This stucco image, from the magnificent Chiesa di San Domenico in Castelvetrano, is of the Erythraean Sibyl who practiced on the Greek island of Chios, off of the coast of modern-day Turkey. The Erythraean Sibyl prophesied the Trojan War. The culture around sibyls and their predictions continued to be relevant for centuries after the fall of Magna Grecia, hence their representation, like this one, in art in churches throughout Italy.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Enlightening post, Allison. I’d heard of sibyls but never knew what they did. And a lovely image of the woman who obviously posed for it (did she?).

    1. Yes, the sibyls fascinate me! I imagine that there was a woman who sat for the sculpture. What’s important too, to note, is that her head and her eyes are out of proportion to the rest of her (and the statues around her)… indicating her higher power to think and “see.”

  2. I did notice that and she looked more “real” to me. Depending on what your reality is, huh? I can predict things. Maybe I’m a sibyl! 🙂

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