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 Cloth Hall in Kraków dates to the Renaissance and is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the main market square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978).
The hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Kraków was Poland's capital city and was among the largest cities in Europe already from before the time of the Renaissance. However, its decline started with the move of the capital to Warsaw in the very end of the 16th century. The city's decline was hastened by wars and politics leading to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century. By the time of the architectural restoration proposed for the cloth hall in 1870 under Austrian rule, much of the historic city center was decrepit. A change in political and economic fortunes for the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria ushered in a revival due to newly established Legislative Assembly or Sejm of the Land. The successful renovation of the Cloth Hall, based on design by Tomasz Pryliński and supervised by Mayor Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz, Sejm Marshal, was one of the most notable achievements of this period.
The hall has hosted many distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries, such as Charles, Prince of Wales and Emperor Akihito of Japan, who was welcomed here in 2002. In the past, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had briefly liberated the city from the Austrians in 1809. Aside from its history and cultural value, the hall still is still used as a center of commerce.
On the upper floor of the hall is the Sukiennice Museum division of the National Museum, Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand exhibition halls arranged by historical period and the theme extending into an entire artistic epoch. The museum was upgraded in 2010 with new technical equipment, storerooms, service spaces as well as improved thematic layout for the display.
The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art was a major cultural venue from the moment it opened on October 7, 1879. It features late Baroque, Rococo, and Classicist 18th-century portraits and battle scenes by Polish and foreign pre-Romantics.