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 Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.