Syracuse Cathedral, also called Duomo of Ortygia, it is one of the most spectacular buildings that we can find in the whole island of Sicily. Built on a Greek temple that was integrated into its interior, this cathedral is a compendium of architecture.
Its origin: the temple of Athena
The origin of the Syracuse Cathedral is found in a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Athena from the 5th century BC. Its construction is due to Gelone, the tyrant of the city, who had it built to commemorate the victory of Himeria against the Carthaginians. It was a rectangular temple with Doric columns that, with the arrival of Christianity, was converted into a church.
Built in the highest area of Ortigia, it had a peristyle of columns around the entire nave. It is said that its cover was made of gold and ivory and that the symbols of Athena were found on the pediment of the entrance. Inside there was an altar dedicated to the goddess.
From Greek temple to Christian cathedral
With the arrival of Christianity in Sicily, all the pagan temples began to be destroyed or, as in this case, to be converted into a new Christian temple. A) Yes, the plant and the columns were respected, covering the space between them. In this way it was possible to close the new building.
Nevertheless, the columns are fully visible in some areas of the exterior. And between the columns of the interior arches were built that give way to the side chapels. In addition, the entrance area was changed, since when it was a Greek temple one entered through the area now occupied by the main altar, a monolith that formed part of the entablature of the ancient Greek temple.
Its architectural style is not defined, because after constructions, extensions and reforms It is a mixture of Greek, Oriental, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque elements. that make it unique and really beautiful.
On its multi-colored marble floor, a composition is created that reaches the delicate main altar. Above this we find a beautifully decorated vault with beautifully colored frescoes.
The cover of the Cathedral of Syracuse, the beauty of the Baroque
The facade of the Syracuse Cathedral is due to the architect Andrea Palma. This was one of the greatest exponents of the so-called Sicilian Baroque. Together with him we find Giuseppe Ferrara and Giovan Battista Alminara working.
The construction and reconstruction of the temple is due to him. While he was doing it, Sicily was devastated by an earthquake in 1693. So it was he who was responsible for its reconstruction. The materials he used were mainly marble and granite, and limestone was used for the moldings and engravings.
Considered one of the masterpieces of Sicilian Baroque and built in two phases, consists of two bodies differentiated. The first is more robust and is divided into three vertical streets by means of huge columns. On the columns there is a double curved entablature that gives way to the second body.
That second body consists of a single street. It is framed by scrolls decorated with lilies and its columns are more slender than those on the lower level. In the center there is a niche with a beautiful stone sculpture known as the Marònna ro Pilèri or Madonna del Piliere (Virgin of the Pillar). Y
Flanking the whole body we find San Marciano and Santa Lucía. Y the entire complex is finished off with a split triangular pediment. In it we find two beautiful angels and a wrought iron cross.
The visit to the Cathedral of Syracuse
The cathedral is located in the Piazza del Duomo in Syracuse. And it has visiting hours and universal accessibility. In the cathedral itself you can buy a ticket that is very cheap, just two euros, and you can rent an audio guide service.
Also, In its surroundings you can enjoy palaces as spectacular as the Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco. And walking a little you can reach one of the main arteries of the city of Syracuse: Via della Maestranza, where the Baroque-style noble houses are the protagonists.
Between them, include the Impellizzeri Palace, the Romeo Bufardeci Palace with its beautiful rococo-style balconies and the Bonanno Palace. Mention should also be made of the impressive facades of the Rizza Palace, with its curved construction, and the Impellizeri Palace, lavishly decorated with arabesques.