Syracuse Duomo: a story of 4 faiths, 6 conquerors and over 2500 years of history

Jan 18, 2019 325


Nestled on a little island, off the southeastern tip of Sicily stands a gleaming white cathedral. As the hot Mediterranean sun hits its towering Corinthian columns and saintly statues, the Baroque façade lights up. It’s an architectural gem and beautiful sight for the faithful and visitors alike. But there’s more to this church than meets the eye so let’s peel back the layers to uncover a story of 4 faiths, 6 conquerors and 2500 years of history.

The home of this layer-cake cathedral is the little island of Ortigia, dangling directly off the seafront of Siracusa. Known locally as the Città Vecchia, or Old City, Ortigia was the easily defensible medieval seat and original birthplace, 2700 years ago, of the metropolis that grew quickly under the ancient Greeks to become the most important city of Magna Graecia, or Greater Greece. In fact, even given the modern urban sprawl of Syracuse, the ancient city was around three times the size of today’s hub, even equaling Athens, with philosopher Cicero describing it as “the greatest Greek city and most beautiful of them all”.

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