The Cathedral of Syracuse
Past and present, mythology and Christian tradition mingle in Ortigia. Here in the ancient heart of Syracuse, the tyrant Gelon erected a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena in 480 BC as a sign of thanksgiving for victory in the battle against Carthage. Cicero also spoke of the Athenaion, describing the golden shield on the pediment that marked the way for sailors approaching the city.
The second life of the Temple of Athena began with the advent of Christianity. It is said that St Paul himself came here to preach in 61 AD. In the 7th century, Bishop Zosimus transformed it into a church dedicated to the Nativity of Mary. Today it is officially the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Syracuse Cathedral.
Notice the Doric columns on the church’s exterior left intact by the Byzantines, who walled up the spaces between pillars. The result is a splendid blend of ancient and modern. The imposing Baroque appearance of the façade dates back to the 18th century. The staircase, statues and, above all, the colossal columns will make you feel the presence of a truly divine work. The white stone in the same shade as the huge square’s paving reflects the sunlight and gives the Temple-Cathedral an ethereal appearance.