Top Historic Sights in Catania, Italy

Explore the historic highlights of Catania

Palazzo degli Elefanti

Palazzo degli Elefanti ('Elephants Palace') currently houses the Town Hall of Catania. The palace, located on the northern side of the Cathedral square, was begun in 1696 after the devastating earthquake of 1693, its original designed having been commissioned to Giovan Battista Longobardo. The eastern, southern, and western façades were however designed at a later stage by Giovan Battista Vaccarini, while th ...
Founded: 1696 | Location: Catania, Italy

Terme Achilliane

The 'Achillian' Baths are numbered amongst the principal public bathing establishments of Roman date which survive in Catania, alongside the Terme dell"Indirizzo and the Terme della Rotonda, and constitute a mysterious and highly suggestive place. They are located beneath the Piazza Duomo and may be reached through a narrow underground passage next to the principal façade of the Cathedral. The name derive ...
Founded: 2nd century AD | Location: Catania, Italy

Catania Cathedral

Catania Cathedral has been destroyed and rebuilt several times because of earthquakes and eruptions of the nearby Mount Etna. It was originally constructed in 1078-1093, on the ruins of the ancient Roman Achillean Baths, by order of Roger I of Sicily, who had conquered the city from the Islamic emirate of Sicily. At the time it had the appearance of a fortified church. In 1169 it was almost entirely destroyed by an eart ...
Founded: 1711 | Location: Catania, Italy

University of Catania

The University of Catania is the oldest university in Sicily and the 13th oldest in Italy. The university was founded by King Alfonso V of Aragon (who was also King Alfonso I of Sicily) on 19 October 1434. Alfonso V with this gesture wanted to compensate the city (in which there had been recently established the Royal Court) for moving the Sicilian capital from Catania to Palermo. The activity of the Atheneum actually st ...
Founded: 1434 | Location: Catania, Italy

Basilica della Collegiata

The Basilica della Collegiata was built in the early 18th century, after the earthquake of 1693 that had destroyed most of the city. The design of the church is attributed to Angelo Italia (1628–1700), who changed the orientation of the previous edifice destroyed by the earthquake, in order to have it facing the new via Uzeda (current Etnea Street) according to the rebuilding plan of the city. The façade, design ...
Founded: 1768 | Location: Catania, Italy

Roman Amphitheatre of Catania

The amphitheatre of Catania is the most complicated and largest of all the amphitheatres in Sicily. It was built in the Roman Imperial period, probably in the 2nd century AD, on the northern edge of the ancient city at the base of the Montevergine hill. Only a small section of the structure is now visible, below ground level, to the north of Piazza Stesicoro. The external diameter was 125 x 105 metres, while the external ...
Founded: 2nd century AD | Location: Catania, Italy

San Benedetto Church

Dedicated to St. Benedict of Nursia, the church of San Benedetto was built from April 1334, then it was destroyed by 1693 Sicily earthquake. The church and the monastery were rebuilt between 1708 and 1763 and Giovanni Battista Vaccarini was one of the main architects. The church was also damaged by bombing in World War II and later restored by the architect Armand Dillon. Its most famous feature is the Angel"s Stai ...
Founded: 1708-1763 | Location: Catania, Italy

Teatro Massimo Bellini

The Teatro Massimo Bellini is an opera house in Catania. Named after the local-born composer Vincenzo Bellini, it was inaugurated in 1890 with a performance of the composer"s masterwork, Norma.  The exterior of the house matches the distinctive Sicilian Baroque style of the neighboring buildings of the late 17th Century. Its marble foyer, the “Ridotto”, is ornate and stuccoed, and a statue of Bellini is locat ...
Founded: 1890 | Location: Catania, Italy

The Roman Theatre of Catania

The Roman Theatre of Catania was built in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD to the remains of earlier Greek theatre. It had seats for 7000 visitors.
Founded: 1st century AD | Location: Catania, Italy

Monastery of San Nicolò l'Arena

The Benedictine Monastery of San Nicolò l"Arena in Catania, Sicily, is one of the largest monasteries in Europe and the second biggest Benedictine monastery in Europe. The monastery was founded in 1558 and today it hosts the Department of Humanities of the University of Catania. The monastery complex is located in the historical centre of the city of Catania, with the church of San Nicolò l"Arena. It shows a ...
Founded: 1558 | Location: Catania, Italy

Palazzo Biscari

Palazzo Biscari was built by will of the Paternò Castello family, the princes of Biscari, starting from the late 17th century, lasting for much of the following century, after the devastations of the 1693 earthquake. The new palace was built directly against the city walls (Charles V"s walls), which had partially withstood the earthquake. The oldest section was built under Ignazio, third prince of Biscari, who ent ...
Founded: 1763 | Location: Catania, Italy

Ursino Castle

Castello Ursino was built between 1239 and 1250, as one of the royal castles of Emperor Frederick II, King of Sicily. In 1295, during the Sicilian Vespers, the Parliament which declared deposed James II of Aragon as King of Sicily, replacing him with Frederick III, was held here. The following year it was captured by Robert of Anjou but was later again in Aragonese hands. After the move of the capital away from Catania a ...
Founded: 1239-1250 | Location: Catania, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba

The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.

According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.

In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.

The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.

Architecture

The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.

In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.

The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.