CATHEDRAL OF SYRACUSE: CROSSROADS OF CULTURES
The Cathedral of Syracuse is definitely a place not to be missed, with its 2400 years of history is an architectural gem in the heart of Ortigia
The cathedral started out as a Greek temple, one of the oldest known Doric monuments, built at the behest of the Syracusian tyrant Gelon in the V century BCE to thank the goddess Athena for a victory over the Carthaginians at Imera in 480 BCE. You can still see the columns of the old temple, encompassed into the side walls during the Byzantine transformation of the building.
Over subsequent centuries, the holy monument was turned into a Byzantine church (VI century) when they created the three naves, hiding the space between the columns and adding eight arches along the walls of the ancient cell. In the VII century Bishop Zosimo made it his Cathedral, and moved there from the basilica of San Giovanni at the catacombs. During the IX century, under Arab rule, the building was probably used as a mosque while, in the XII century, it reverted to being a Christian place of worship when it became a Norman church. This is when a new façade was built and the walls of the nave were made higher to accommodate windows to illuminate the interior. The multi-coloured marble floor is especially interesting. Renovated in the late 1800s, the ancient heraldic shield of Syracuse graces its centre.
Il terribile terremoto del 1693 distrusse la facciata normanna e il campanile che non fu mai più ricostruito. Il rifacimento post-terremoto è rappresentato dalla costruzione della facciata nuova, realizzata nella prima metà del Settecento sul disegno dell’architetto palermitano Andrea Palma.
Piazza Duomo , Siracusa, SR, 96100
October – March
9:00 – 17:30
April – June and September
9:00 – 18:30
July – August
9:00 – 19:00
Full tickets: € 2,00
Reduced ticket: € 1,00
(School groups / Pilgrims)
Residents / Teachers / Journalists / Priests / ICOM Descriptors / Guides and Tourists / Disabled with Accompanying / Under 13
tel. +39 389 55 03 267
The Baroque layout is scenic: the sacristy opens with a (recently constructed) staircase at the sides of which two pedestals hold marble statues of St. Peter and St. Paul, works by the Palermo-born sculptor Ignazio Marabitti. The façade is graced with imposing columns with composite capitals which, isolated from the wall, accentuate a strong chiaroscuro, while at the centre the curved split front is embellished with a heraldic shield with an eagle, the emblem of Charles III of Bourbon.
The upper row of the façade houses a niche with a statue of the Virgin to whom the church is dedicated, while at the sides, next to the volutes with palms are statues of St. Marziano and St. Lucia, also made by Marabitti.
The baptistery and the chapels of St. Lucia and the Holy Sacraments are reached from the right nave. The Chapel of St. Lucia has a central niche that is home to the XVII century silver simulacrum of the virgin martyr Lucia, the patron saint of Syracuse. The Chapel of the Holy Sacraments, on the other hand, was built at the behest of Bishop Torres and designed by the Syracusian architect Vermexio. It has a richly decorated ceiling depicting stories from the Old Testament featuring the Eucharist by means of symbols of bread and wine.
Towards the late XVI century, at the back of the central nave, there is the chapel of the Crucifix. In order to build it they had to demolish the old Byzantine apse and the last three columns of the Greek temple. The chapel houses the sepulchral monuments of Syracusian bishops. Of special note here is the painting that depicts S. Zosimo, a work attributed to Antonello da Messina.
Above the main altar of the cathedral is a painting portraying the Birth of the Virgin, attributed to Le Brun, while on the walls over the wooden stalls are two monumental paintings dating to the early 1900s depicting St. Peter sending Bishop Marciano to Syracuse from Antioch and St. Paul preaching in the Catacombs, both by Galimberti. The base of the altar is a great block of stone that fell from the Greek temple during the terrible 1693 earthquake.
Along the wall of the left nave are Renaissance sculptures from the Gagini school: St. Catherine, the Madonna and Child and St Lucia. At the back of the nave is the only apse left over from the Byzantine-Norman building, it has become the chapel of the Madonna of the Snow, the statue of her was made by Gagini himself.
STAY UPDATED SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER