Catania – the capital of the province of the same name, is located on the island of Sicily, on the Ionian coast, at the foot of the highest volcano in Europe – Etna.
Picturesque and noisy Catania is a city of a volcano. The dark, closed Etna, like an obstinate deity, gazes at the revival that prevails in the city streets and serves as an eloquent symbol of the inalienable quality of the people of Catania: their industriousness. It was this quality that allowed the people to be reborn many times from the ashes, like a newly-minted phoenix bird, without worrying about earthquakes or wars.
Catania is a dark city built of black volcanic stone, and at the same time unusually bright and sunny: the sun shines here about 2530 hours a year – more than anywhere else in Italy.
The symbol of the city is an elephant, a strong and kind animal, and their patron saint is Agatha, a virgin and a martyr who was able to stop even the fury of Etna with the supernatural power of her veil.
From the history of Catania
The city of Katane was founded in 729 BC. Chalkidian colonists on the smoking ruins of the Sikul settlement. Its name meant “hill”, and indeed on the hill, where today there is a large Benedictine monastery, the acropolis was once built long ago. Over the years, temples, a hippodrome, a gymnasium, a mint and an odeon arose around the latter.
In 476 BC the city was conquered by Jeron, the cruel Syracuse tyrant who expelled the inhabitants of Catania from the city, and renamed it Aitna. When, after the defeat of the tyrant, the indigenous inhabitants of the city returned to their homes, they again gave Catania its original name. However, this period of independence was short: in 403 BC another Syracuse tyrant subjugated Catania, and sold its inhabitants into slavery, replacing them with his mercenaries. From this period there remained a statue of Kora (Persephone) with a torch.
Kathinia was subordinate to Syracuse until the beginning of the 3rd century., And from 263 BC. Rome began to rule it. During the first Punic War, the Romans invaded the city and remained in Catania for seven centuries, during which the economy and culture of the city flourished. From that time, the ruins of the Roman Forum near the courtyard of San Pantaleone, the circus for chariot competitions, the theater and the odeon, and in the north of the city – the amphitheater, have been preserved in Katinia. The construction of a water supply system dates back to the same time, which indicates a high standard of living in Catania during the Roman Empire. After the fall of Rome, the former Roman Colony was ruled by the Byzantine Empire for three centuries. In 827, Arabs landed in Sicily, and later, in 1071, they were driven out by the Normans, who entered Catania, led by Count Ruggiero. In 1169, the city was destroyed by a terrible earthquake. Thirty years later, when restoration was still ongoing, Catania supported Albtavilla in the fight against Henry VI, the son of Frederick Barbarossa – in response, the empire dealt a severe blow, culminating in a fire that destroyed part of the city, including the Cathedral. During the reign of Frederick II (1240), Catania was finally freed from feudal dependence. Spain had a strong influence on the economic and cultural development of Catania: Frederick III of Aragon (1609-1670) – the king of Denmark and Norway – was also the king of Sicily. The symbol of cultural development can be called the opening of the first university in Sicily in 1434. The second half of the XVII century. – a tragic period in the history of Catania: in 1669 there was a strong eruption of the volcano Etna, and almost the entire city was buried under a layer of lava and ash. By 1693, when Catania had not yet recovered from the disaster, the earthquake destroyed everything that remained and was restored. But these terrible eruptions did not break the inhabitants of the city. The active restoration of the city began. The main materials used were black lava and light limestone. The city was one huge construction site. In the era of the unification of Italy (Risorgimento), Catania rebelled against the Bourbons in 1837 and in 1848, and then became part of the United Italy. The city developed rapidly, slowing down only during the Second World War. Over the past few decades, high technologies have begun to develop in Catania, so that it has even received the name of European Silicon Valley.
The Fontana del Elefante (Elephant Fountain), located in the center of the Piazza Duomo, is the work of Giovan Battista Vaccarini. It consists of the figure of an elephant made of volcanic stone from the ancient Roman era and Egyptian granite stella with hieroglyphic inscriptions relating to the cult of the goddess Isis.
The Duomo (Cathedral), built at the turn of the 17th century, is the main architectural monument. Its facade in the Gothic style, dating back to the beginning of the XX century, was adjusted by Giovan Battista Basile. The interior of the cathedral consists of three naves and is decorated with frescoes by Giuseppe Shuti and Pietro Paolo Vasta.
The Cathedral of St. Agatha, built in 1078-1093 on the site of the Achilles’ Term, has preserved from the era of construction three apes and a high transept.