The Basilica of St. John the Evangelist was built in the 6th century by the Byzantines on a crypt dating from the 1st century AD. It is of great importance both for its architectural aspect (as it was the largest building built in Syracuse) and because its memory is related to the origins of the Christianity in the city. For a long time this church was identified with the ancient cathedral of the city and here were built the catacombs probably because it was the burial place of St. Marciano, first bishop of Syracuse.
The church was built so that the burial of the saint was aligned with the altar, located in the center of the nave. The church was composed of three naves with twelve Doric columns, six on each side, which alluded to the number of apostles, now all that remains are just a few remnants of columns in the nave, the stone apse and the entire west facade.During the devastation of the Arabs, the basilica was considerably damaged.
In the 12th century it was rebuilt by the Normans who reused the materials of the tempio di Demetra e Kore, of which no trace remains today. The orientation of the building was changed, the perimeter walls were rebuilt, the columns were reduced to ten and the presbytery assumed its current proportions. After the earthquake of 1693 the entire church was subject to further damage and later, in 1705, was restored and the facade, which was originally located to the west, was facing south, the arcade was equipped with pointed arches, adorned with decorated capitals. When the 1908 earthquake struck, the roof collapsed and was no longer restored.
From the basilica of San Giovanni, a staircase to the right of the entrance allows access to the Byzantine crypt, located approximately five meters below street level. According to Christian tradition, the crypt was built on the site where St. Marcianus, the first bishop of Syracuse, was buried. He was sent by St. Peter in 39 AD to preach the Gospel and founded the first Christian community in the Western world. The cave that welcomed his body immediately became a place of devotion and of burial. Some apses, the remains of the pavement, as well as numerous columns and Ionic capitals are still visible from the ancient structure. The Normans further adorned the crypt, setting four marble capitals representing the symbols of the Evangelists at the corners of the central nave, and covering the rocky wall with frescoes and decorative motifs.
The catacombs of St. John are located in the area below the basilica and represent an important underground heritage dating back to the early Christian period. Built in the 4th century and extended until the 5th century, and not yet fully explored, the Catacombs of St. John follow the layout of a former Greek aqueduct (traces of which can be seen on the vault) and are structured according to a system of regular tunnels that follow that of the “castrum”, the typical Roman military camp. There is in fact a central gallery, the “decumanus maximus”, from which ten secondary galleries branch off. The latter lead to four roundabouts (former aqueduct tanks): the Antioch roundabout, the Marina roundabout, the Adelfia roundabout and the Sarcophagi roundabout.
There is also a last small rectangular tank called “Eusebio’s cubicle”. The walls of the galleries are marked by numerous rectangular loculus with their long side closed originally by a slab of marble, bricks or tiles. They were mainly individual tombs, but the ” arcosoli polisomi” were also common, galleries with arched entrance carved into the rock that could contain from two to twenty bodies, they were in fact tombs for families or guilds.The Catacombs also owe their fame to the splendid sarcophagus of Adelfia, discovered in 1872 and now conserved in the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum in Syracuse.References:
The famous Italian Medici family have given two queens to France: Catherine, the spouse of Henry II, and Marie, widow of Henry IV, who built the current Luxembourg palace. Maria di Medici had never been happy at the Louvre, still semi-medieval, where the fickle king, did not hesitate to receive his mistresses. The death of Henry IV, assassinated in 1610, left the way open for Marie's project. When she became regent, she was able to give special attention to the construction of an imposing modern residence that would be reminiscent of the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens in Florence, where she grew up. The development of the 25-hectare park, which was to serve as a jewel-case for the palace, began immediately.
The architect, Salomon de Brosse, began the work in 1615. Only 16 years later was the palace was completed. Palace of Luxembourg affords a transition between the Renaissance and the Classical period.
In 1750, the Director of the King's Buildings installed in the wing the first public art-gallery in France, in which French and foreign canvases of the royal collections are shown. The Count of Provence and future Louis XVIII, who was living in Petit Luxembourg, had this gallery closed in 1780: leaving to emigrate, he fled from the palace in June 1791.
During the French Revolution the palace was first abandoned and then moved as a national prison. After that it was the seat of the French Directory, and in 1799, the home of the Sénat conservateur and the first residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul of the French Republic. The old apartments of Maria di Medici were altered. The floor, which the 80 senators only occupied in 1804, was built in the middle of the present Conference Hall.
Beginning in 1835 the architect Alphonse de Gisors added a new garden wing parallel to the old corps de logis, replicating the look of the original 17th-century facade so precisely that it is difficult to distinguish at first glance the old from the new. The new senate chamber was located in what would have been the courtyard area in-between.
The new wing included a library (bibliothèque) with a cycle of paintings (1845–1847) by Eugène Delacroix. In the 1850s, at the request of Emperor Napoleon III, Gisors created the highly decorated Salle des Conférences, which influenced the nature of subsequent official interiors of the Second Empire, including those of the Palais Garnier.
During the German occupation of Paris (1940–1944), Hermann Göring took over the palace as the headquarters of the Luftwaffe in France, taking for himself a sumptuous suite of rooms to accommodate his visits to the French capital. Since 1958 the Luxembourg palace has been the seat of the French Senate of the Fifth Republic.