Idea #740 – Visiting Catania, the city of Saint Agatha, in Sicily
Catania was founded in 729 BC by the Chalcidians of Naxos, four years after the founding of Syracuse. The Greek city prospered, before, in 476 BC, it was taken by Hieron I, who led a campaign of expansion in Sicily. The inhabitants were then deported and replaced by Dorians from Syracuse and Greeks from the Peloponnese. In 403 BC, Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse, took Catania by surprise and sacked the city, which was taken again shortly afterwards by the Carthaginians. It passed into the hands of the Romans in 263 BC, who provided it with large public buildings, the remains of some of which are still visible.
After the Muslim occupation, the city was occupied in 1071 by the Normans, who built the cathedral. In 1081, 160 Norman knights supported by Calabrian infantry crushed an army counting perhaps a thousand Muslim infantry and cavalry in the vicinity of the city. Between 1239 and 1250, Emperor Frederick II built the Castello Ursino. From 1282, under Aragonese influence, Catania became the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily. In 1376, the relics of Saint Agatha, patron saint, were placed in Catania Cathedral. The first Sicilian university was founded in Catania in 1434, testifying to the cultural hegemony of the city.
The proximity of Etna exposed the city to many recurring destructions. Lava flows reached the sea in 1669, and the city was practically totally destroyed in 1693 by an earthquake, which also devastated 60 urban centers, and caused the death of 93,000 people, including 16,0008 in Catania. Very few works then survived there, such as the castle of Ursino, or some portions of the ancient walls and the Roman amphitheater. The Vicar General Giuseppe Lanza, Duke of Camastra, launched the reconstruction of the city at the request of the Crown of Spain, in a late Baroque style. The urban choices lead to a hippodamian plan, with low-rise buildings, to counter the effects of a possible new earthquake. Large squares have also been planned to facilitate, if necessary, the regrouping of the inhabitants of threatened or destroyed buildings.
Some vestiges of the Greco-Roman period are still visible. Elements of medieval fortifications, churches, also dot various districts, rebuilt in the Baroque style after the earthquake of 1693. The city offers exceptional testimony to this and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, in the setting of the late Baroque towns of the Val di Noto.
The eight towns in southeastern Sicily – Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli – were all rebuilt after 1693, on the site or next to the towns that stood there before the earthquake of that same year. They represent a considerable collective initiative, carried out at a high architectural and artistic level. Broadly in line with the late Baroque style of the period, they represent significant innovations in the field of town planning and urban construction.
Where is it ?
Catania, Sicily, Italia