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The Cathedral is a bright pearl of one of the most picturesque squares in Syracuse.
According to historians, the cathedral was erected on the site of an ancient Sicul temple. Nowadays, on Via Minerva you can see traces of their settlement. In 480 BC. on this place, the Greeks built a Doric temple in gratitude to the goddess Athena for her help in the fight against the Carthaginians. Today, 10 surviving columns can be seen near the walls of the left nave of the cathedral. The monolithic block, which was previously part of the architrave of the temple, nowadays is a part of the altar in the presbytery.
This temple was one of the richest in Magna Graecia, in connection with which it was repeatedly plundered. In the 1st century BC. Guy Licinius Verres caused more damage to the temple, destroying, among other valuable items, portraits of the first Sicilian rulers.
It is currently not known for certain when the ruins of an ancient Greek temple were turned into a Christian basilica. In 640, the church received the status of the Cathedral. At the same time, Bishop Zosimus rebuilt the building, significantly expanding it. Unfortunately, during the construction work, traces of the previous buildings were destroyed. Only Byzantine arches, a marble floor and a hemispherical apse have survived from the old temple. In the 9th century, the Arabs who invaded Sicily took out more than 10 000 pounds of silver and 5 000 pounds of gold from here. After that, the plundered shrine was turned into a mosque for a century.
Subsequently, the church was saved by the Normans, who returned it to the fold of Christianity. They also erected fortified walls in the central nave, which have survived to our time almost unchanged. During the same period, the apse was decorated with mosaics.
After a period of prosperity, Eastern Sicily fell into ruins again, this time caused by a terrible earthquake in 1693. The cathedral, along with other buildings, was completely destroyed and later rebuilt in the Sicilian Baroque style. around the apse and the central nave, several ornate chapels were built, decorated with elegant columns, colorful frescoes and statues. The facade of the cathedral was designed by the architect Andrea Palma, and later decorated with sculptures by Ignazo Marabitti.
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Topic: Syracuse Cathedral in Italy, Sicily resort.