Built between the late 1200s and the early 1300s, the Palazzo Duchi di Santo Stefano (Palace of the Dukes of Santo Stefano) was part of the medieval walls of Taormina. It is a masterpiece of Sicilian Romaneque and Gotic style, fitted with Arabic-Norman elements.
The building has a beautiful garden in front of its main facades, where there is still a well for the collection of rain-water which was the water supply for the whole palace.
The Palazzo dei Duchi di Santo Stefano is made up of three square overlapping sections. The entrance to the ground floor is an ogival arch constructed with squared bricks of black basalt (lavic stone) and white granite (Taormina stone). On the second floor there are four beautiful windows , two facing east and two facing north. The four mullioned windows have an elaborate structure with rosettes and small trilobe arches as well as triple cordons framing the ogival arches. On the top part of the palace a wide frieze runs along the east and north facades formed by a wavy decoration in lavic stone alternated with rhombus-shaped inlays in white Siracusa stone, together forming a magnificent lace of marquetry.
The palace was the residence of the spanish noble family De Spuches, dukes of Santo Stefano and Princes of Galati.
During the second world war it was damaged in large parts, yet it was completly restored in the 1960s after that the Municipality of Taormina bought it from Vincenzo De Spuches, a young descendant of the De Spuches family.
The Palace today houses the Fondazione G. Mazzullo. Many of the sculptures of Giuseppe Mazzullo are on show in the Palace.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.