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 architectonical integration of many styles through different centuries. Although the monastery was founded in the 16th century, it was modified by two natural disasters in the 17th century. In 1669 the 1669 Etna eruption surrounded the city of Catania, widening the coast for more than 1 km, and the monastery too. So the monastery was not destroyed by the lava but the area around was completely modified by a lava bench 12 meters high.
In 1693 the earthquake of Val di Noto destroyed the entire east coast of Sicily and Catania. The monastery was terribly damaged and the only floor that survived was the basement.
In 1702 the rebuilding started and lasted until 1866 (when the new Reign of Italy confiscated the monastery). The original monastery was rebuilt on the top of the latter, and they added a new cloister (the eastern cloister) and a new area (the large part designed by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini) on the top of the lava bench.
In 1977 the monastery was donated to the University of Catania, which restored the entire structure; in 1984 Giancarlo De Carlo started to design the entire restoration work.References:
The Church of St Donatus name refers to Donatus of Zadar, who began construction on this church in the 9th century and ended it on the northeastern part of the Roman forum. It is the largest Pre-Romanesque building in Croatia.
The beginning of the building of the church was placed to the second half of the 8th century, and it is supposed to have been completed in the 9th century. The Zadar bishop and diplomat Donat (8th and 9th centuries) is credited with the building of the church. He led the representations of the Dalmatian cities to Constantinople and Charles the Great, which is why this church bears slight resemblance to Charlemagne"s court chapels, especially the one in Aachen, and also to the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. It belongs to the Pre-Romanesque architectural period.
The circular church, formerly domed, is 27 m high and is characterised by simplicity and technical primitivism.