Siracusa is a city of churches. I suppose any ancient city is really, but the churches here are responsible for a permanent crick in my neck from continually gawking up.
There are just so many of these churches, each one a gem in itself. There isn’t enough time for me to visit them all!
The Duomo, on the highest point of Ortigia, has been a sacred spot for at least 5,000 years.
When the Greeks settled in Siracusa about 750 BCE, the Sicels had a temple of some sort here to the Mother Goddess and the Greeks, who knew a good thing when they saw it, built a temple to their own Athena over it.
You can still see a lot of the 5th century BCE Greek temple.
When it was converted into a Christian church in the 7th century of our era, the builders incorporated the temple into the new design.
Inside, you can see the Doric columns. All part of the (relatively) modern cathedral.
As if being in a church that’s 1300 years old isn’t breathtaking enough, running my hand (surreptitiously) over these smooth columns, carved from local limestone over 2,500 years ago, is heart-stopping.
You can see the wall of Athena’s temple on the exterior as well.
The Arabs, enlightened and educated conquerors, left the cathedral alone in their 250 year occupancy. Although, in agriculture and cuisine, science and engineering, they changed the face of Sicily forever.
Roll on the 11th century of our era.
When the Normans invaded England, they added their churches (Ely Cathedral springs to mind) but the Domesday Book, the first public record and a legal document still valid today, is perhaps their greatest legacy. (The Normans were also responsible for putting French on the standard 1950s school curriculum in Australia and I thank them for this).
However, Sicily was a different matter. Here the Normans had access to highly skilled artisans.
More churches were raised to the glory of the Christian god and, naturally enough, to the glory of the Norman kings.
The mosaics on the floor of the Duomo are Norman.
Inside the Duomo, in one of the many side altars, rests the statue of Santa Lucia, daughter of Siracuse, which is paraded out annually on her feast day.