The 'Achillian' Baths are numbered amongst the principal public bathing establishments of Roman date which survive in Catania, alongside the Terme dell'Indirizzo and the Terme della Rotonda, and constitute a mysterious and highly suggestive place. They are located beneath the Piazza Duomo and may be reached through a narrow underground passage next to the principal façade of the Cathedral.
The name derives from a fragmentary Greek inscription on a slab of Carrara marble, found around the middle of the 18th century. The inscription, attributable to the middle of the 5th century AD, is currently on display in the Museo Civico of Castello Ursino in Catania.
The part of the building complex which can be visited today includes the main hall, know as “Hall of Piers”, off which opens a series of rooms, some of which are linked to it by a corridor along the south side. This, covered by a barrel-vault and about 18m long, leads to four rooms of uncertain purpose. The area has yielded numerous fragments of late Roman and mediaeval pottery, which demonstrate the continued use of the building.
The meagre stratigraphic data obtained from the various excavation campaigns, together with the analysis of structural details, have made it possible to date the first bath building to the 2nd century AD; while a second building phase, observable in the east wall of the main hall, must belong to the mid-5th century AD. The latter must have constituted an elongated rectangle in the first phase, while it was probably re-shaped in the second phase, reducing its size.
Following refurbishments in late antiquity, the main hall is now more-or-less square in outline (11 m from north to south and 11.90 m from east to west). The vaulted ceiling of the hall, whose extraordinary figurative decoration can still be admired, was covered with stucco protraying cupids, vine scrolls and bunches of grapes. Along its own sides is a conduit 0.70 m wide, linked to the channel system found in the long corridor which flanks the hall on the south. The paving of the hall was a fine work in opus sectile, composed of re-used slabs, of which the impressions remain in the mortar bedding. In the centre of the hall is a basin, originally veneered with marble, in the centre of which would have stood a small column. During the first phase, the height of the piers would have appeared greater than it does now, for in fact the present paving dates from a complex remodelling of the building which involved its raising up. As one passes along the corridor, there is on the left a room which has yielded the only remains of the heating system (a hypocaust with piers composed of cylindrical bricks). In this same room have been found the remains of a staircase, indicating the existence of an upper floor to the bath complex, which must have occupied more than one level.References:
The first historical record of Lednice locality dates from 1222. At that time there stood a Gothic fort with courtyard, which was lent by Czech King Václav I to Austrian nobleman Sigfried Sirotek in 1249.
At the end of the 13th century the Liechtensteins, originally from Styria, became holders of all of Lednice and of nearby Mikulov. They gradually acquired land on both sides of the Moravian-Austrian border. Members of the family most often found fame in military service, during the Renaissance they expanded their estates through economic activity. From the middle of the 15th century members of the family occupied the highest offices in the land. However, the family’s position in Moravia really changed under the brothers Karel, Maximilian, and Gundakar of Liechtenstein. Through marriage Karel and Maximilian acquired the great wealth of the old Moravian dynasty of the Černohorskýs of Boskovice. At that time the brothers, like their father and grandfather, were Lutheran, but they soon converted to Catholicism, thus preparing the ground for their rise in politics. Particularly Karel, who served at the court of Emperor Rudolf II, became hetman of Moravia in 1608, and was later raised to princely status by King Matyas II and awarded the Duchy of Opava.
During the revolt of the Czech nobility he stood on the side of the Habsburgs, and took part in the Battle of White Mountain. After the uprising was defeated in 1620 he systematically acquired property confiscated from some of the rebels, and the Liechtensteins became the wealthiest family in Moravia, rising in status above the Žerotíns. Their enormous land holdings brought them great profits, and eventually allowed them to carry out their grandious building projects here in Lednice.
In the 16th century it was probably Hartmann II of Liechtenstein who had the old medieval water castle torn down and replaced with a Renaissance chateau. At the end of the 17th century the chateau was torn down and a Baroque palace was built, with an extensive formal garden, and a massive riding hall designed by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach that still stands in almost unaltered form.
In the mid-18th century the chateau was again renovated, and in 1815 its front tracts that had been part of the Baroque chateau were removed.
The chateau as it looks today dates from 1846-1858, when Prince Alois II decided that Vienna was not suitable for entertaining in the summer, and had Lednice rebuilt into a summer palace in the spirit of English Gothic. The hall on the ground floor would serve to entertain the European aristocracy at sumptuous banquets, and was furnished with carved wood ceilings, wooden panelling, and select furniture, surpassing anything of its kind in Europe.