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Let’s take a look inside Siracusa’s most celebrated landmark.

Siracusa’s Duomo (cathedral) sits on the highest point on the island of Ortigia.

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The cathedral incorporates the remains of a Greek temple dating back to the 6th century BC. The temple was dedicated to Athena (Minerva in Etruscan) – the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. It has a highly complex baroque facade.

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Despite the exterior shows the styles of the Baroque and Rococo, the interior includes parts built by the Greek dating back to the Middle Ages and parts built by the Byzantines in the seventeenth century as seen today.

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The main entrance is flanked by a pair of highly decorated Rococo columns.

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Doric columns of the Temple of Athena inside the cathedral.

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When the first Christian church was built herein the Seventh Century, the doric columns were incorporated into its structure.

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The Duomo holds statues, relics and remains of saints, martyrs and nobles of the city. The patron saint of Siracusa is Santa Lucia, born locally (284-304 AD) and died as a young Christian martyr.

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Siracusa was a Roman province under the rule of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (r.284-305) who mounted some of the fiercest persecutions of members of the Christian church.

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There are two legendary stories about Santa Lucia’s eyes. As Lucy had beautiful eyes, the pagan man who was proposed to marry Lucy, wanted Lucy’s eyes. One story says that the christian Lucy gifted her eyes to the pagan man, and asked him to leave her alone.

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The second story says that while she was taken by the governor for being a Christian, during the torture, she was stabbed in the throat by a dagger to stop her from speaking about Christian faith and her eyes were taken out.

In both stories, God had restored her eyes.

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The emblem of eyes on a cup or plate apparently reflects popular devotion to her as protector of sight, because of her name, Lucia (from the Latin word “lux” means “light”).

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Santa Lucia is represented in Christian Art is generally represented as bearing a dish or platter with two eyes on it.

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A highly treasured silver statue of Santa Lucia, made in 1599 in Palermo, had been stolen in the past. It is now locked up in a silver box stored somewhere in the cathedral, and only brought out on religious occasions. Photos of the statue and the box are shown instead.

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Her feast day is celebrated on December 13 and once coincided with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. So her feast day has become a festival of light widely celebrated in not only Italy but also as far away as the Scandinavia.

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Santa Lucia and her eyes is definitely one of the more macabre legends of Christian martyrs we came across.

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One Comment

  1. Very nice. Sad story.


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