The Duomo, Syracuse

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The western facade of the Duomo, a church dedicated to St Lucy. The baroque facade was designed by one of the premier architects of Sicilian baroque, Andrea Palma.

The Duomo in Syracuse is one of the most atmospheric religious buildings I have visited. It was originally constructed by the Greeks as a Doric temple dedicated to Athena in the 4C BC. After continual use as a Greek and Roman temple, and possibly a brief period as a mosque it was converted to a church in the C7 AD. The conversion was simple and effective. Walls were constructed between the outer columns and the solid walls of the internal cella had arches carved through them to open up the central nave. The interior has changed little since that original work with the columns of the Greek temple still clearly visible both inside and out. In the great Sicilian earthquake of 1693 the western facade was damaged and it was then replaced by a new facade in soaring Sicilian baroque. The result is a building which has been in continuous use as a religious shrine for some 2,500 years and a place of quite considerable atmosphere. The trip to Sicily is well worth it for this one building alone!

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The columns of the original temple to Athena are clearly visible inside the church.
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In the Greek temple, the outer columns surrounded a secure and windowless room, the cella, where offerings to the temple god were stored and displayed. Arches have been carved in to the walls of the cella to open up the nave, with the columns visible beyond. At a later stage the walls of the cella were also raised beyond the original temple height to allow for the additional windows above.