CATHEDRAL OF SIRACUSA: CULTURES CROSSROAD
Strolling around Ortigia, you can’t help but notice how fascinating are all the buildings, the churches and the statues which embellish the historical centre, surrounded by the brightness of limestone structures. The beauty of the Cathedral dominates over all, due to its charming Baroque facade and its structure which treasure one of the most important and famous Doric monument in all Sicily: the Temple of Athena. The Greek Temple was built in 480 b.C. by the tyrant Gelone according to the victory against Cartago in the battle of Himera. Currently are clearly visible almost all columns and some parts of the interior chamber. The Byzantines in the 6th century converted the temple into a church: included the exterior colonnade in the outer walls of the church and opened eight arches on each side of the interior chamber to create a building with three naves, dedicated to Virgin Mary.
In the 7th century the bishop Zosimo was stunned by the gorgeous Cathedral, so decided to move the cathedral’s seat to the Duomo (which previously was in San Giovanni’s church), saving it from destruction.
During the 9th century under Arabs domination the Cathedral was probably used as a Mosque, even though in the 12th century with the Normans it went back to be a church. In Norman times was built a new facade and were raised the walls of the nave to open up windows. Then in the 15th century was remade the floor in polychrome marble, in the middle is found the coat of arms of the ancient Siracusa.
The terrible earthquake in 1693 destroyed the Norman facade and the bell tower, never rebuilt. But it was an opportunity to reconstruct in the 18th century the current Baroque facade, and to decorate internally the church.
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)
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tel. +39 389 55 03 267
When you arrive in Piazza Duomo the view will be breathtaking: the smooth Baroque lines of the surrounding buildings blend perfectly with the huge Doric columns incorporated in the wall of this suggestive Cathedral. The Baroque facade of the church is accurately graven and it shows all its beauty, dominating the town square.
You will arrive to the churchyard by a stylish stairway; it is flanked by the marble statues of the Apostles Pietro and Paolo, both made by the sculptor Ignazio Marabitti from Palermo, instead the facade has huge columns with Corinthian capitals which create an interesting contrast between light and dark. In the middle there is a curvilinear pediment with the royal emblem of Carlo III Borbone, the eagle, just above a frieze with decorations and angels; on the top of the facade and inside a niche there is the limestone image of Virgin Mary to whom the church is devoted. Predominate the statues of the first bishop of Siracusa, San Marciano, and the patroness of the city, Santa Lucia, likewise realized by Marabitti.
Walking down the right aisle, the Doric columns are alternated with two awesome chapels decorated in marble and embellished with Baroque ornaments. The first one is dedicated to the virgin martyr and patroness of Siracusa, Santa Lucia: inside the chapel are treasured beyond a bronze fence some relics of the saint, such as bone fragments and her silver statue. The second one is dedicated to Holy Sacrament and it’s totally frescoed with Old Testament’s scenes, in addition it includes a marble altar called “ciborium” designed by architect Luigi Vanvitelli.
At the end of right aisle is found the large chapel of Crucifix, obtained by the demolition of the ancient Byzantine apse and the last three columns of the Temple. It is designed as a small church and it treasures several relics, burial monuments of old Siracusa’s bishops, and significant works such as the portrayed of San Zosimo probably realized by Antonello da Messina.
The interior of the Church is really sacred and solemn, according to Byzantine style it is divided in three naves and its spirituality is only interrupted by notable masterpieces. Behind main altar stands the painting of Virgin Mary Nativity, probably realized by Giacinto Brandi. Whereas on lateral wooden panels there are two great paintings: on one side San Pietro who sends Marciano from Antiochia to Siracusa, on the other San Paolo who preaches in Siracusa’s Catacombs, both realized by Galimberti at the beginning of the 20th century.
Along the left aisle are very interesting the gorgeous marble statues of Santa Caterina, Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, and Santa Lucia. At the end of the same aisle is located the only one Byzantine-Norman apse survived, where is found the suggestive and lively marble statue of the Madonna of the Snow realized by Antonello Gagini.
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