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 earthquake, leaving only the apse area intact. Further damage was caused by a fire in 1169, but the most catastrophic event was the 1693 earthquake, which again left it mostly in ruins. It was subsequently rebuilt in Baroque style.
Today, traces of the original Norman edifice include part of the transept, the two towers and the three semicircular apses, composed of large lava stones, most of them recovered from imperial Roman buildings.
The current appearance of the cathedral dates from the work in 1711 of Gian Battista Vaccarini, who designed a new Baroque façade after the 1693 earthquake. It has three levels with Corinthian columns in granite, perhaps taken from the Roman Theatre of the city. All the orders are decorated with marble statues of Saint Agatha over the gate, Saint Euplius on the right and Saint Birillus on the left. The main door, in wood, has 32 sculpted plaques with episodes of the life and martyrdom of Saint Agatha, papal coats of arms and symbols of Christianity.
The dome dates from 1802. The bell tower was originally erected in 1387, with a height of some 70 meters. In 1662 a clock was added, the structure reaching 90 meters. After the destruction of 1693 it was rebuilt, with the addition of a 7.5 t bell, the third largest in Italy after those in St. Peter's Basilica and in Milan Cathedral.
The parvise is accessed through a marble façade culminating in a wrought iron decorated with 10 bronze statues of saints. The parvise is separated from the cathedral square by a balustrade in white stone, featuring five large statues of saints in Carrara marble.
The cathedral has a Latin cross groundplan, with a nave and two aisles. In the southern aisle are the baptistery and, at the first altar, a canvas of Saint Febronia of Nisibis by Borremans facing, on a pilaster, the tomb of the composer Vincenzo Bellini. Also on a pilaster between this aisle and the nave is the Baroque monument of Bishop Pietro Galletti. Also notable is the Chapel of St. Agatha.
The apse dates back to the original 12th-century construction: it features a medieval mullioned window and a late-16th-century choir by the Neapolitan artist Scipione di Guido. At the end of the north transept is the Chapel of the Holy Crucifix, by Domenico Mazzola (1577). It houses the tombs of members of the Aragonese branch of Sicily, including Kings Frederick III and Louis, John of Randazzo, and Constance.
The northern aisle has several 17th-century paintings of saints, including one by Borremans.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.