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Exploring Sicily's cultural heritage

ITALY | Wednesday, 2 November 2016 | Views [318]

If you've never been to the Italy's south autonomous region, you might want to make it your next stop.

Sicily is one of my favourite destinations of all times, since it's the place where throughout the history, civilizations and cultures have merged and interlaced, learning to co-exist, even though there were of course conflicts.

Though it's part of Italy, Sicily owes its specific cultural heritage to the civilizations inhabiting it since 11th century BC. From Phoenicians, to Greeks, Romans, Arabs, every culture brought in a new thing to the plate which resulted in a real cultural mash.

Sicily faced a devastating earthquake in the 17th century, but their culture rose from the ashes in a form of a specific form of a baroque – Sicilian baroque. Many Sicilian architects at the time spent enough time in Rome, where baroque was flourishing. So, after the earthquake, they had enough opportunities to apply the gained knowledge.


From what I saw, Syracuse may be the perfect example of the above mentioned. First, the Greeks settled here in 8th century BC. After them, the Romans came, and soon the city became important centre for the trade between the eastern and the western part of the empire. During the Muslim conquest of Sicily, Syracuse was faced with 200 years of Arabic influences.

remnants of Athena's temple in Syracuse cathedral

Architecture is the perfect example of this. When you arrive to the main square – Piazza Duomo, you'll notice something curious about the Cathedral. It originally was the temple of goddess Athena, in 5th century BC. After that, it was turned to a mosque, before being turned to a church again in 1085. After the earthquake, the church is now known for its mostly baroque architecture. But all the other elements, from all the previous civilizations and cultures is still visible.

Another beautiful example is a former temple of god Apollo, that used to be a church, then a mosque, then again a church. Unfortunately, today you can just see the Doric pillars.


The perfect example of coexistence between cultures and art is the Capella Palatina, in Palazzo Reale. You can see Norman architecture, and wooden door carvings, combined seamlessly with Arabic elements of the arches on the ceiling. Christian motifs are predominantly Byzantine, but some of the paintings on the walls have the catholic vibe.

 Capella Palatina

In the age, where the old buildings are getting demolished in favour of the “new”, Sicily is the perfect example of how new and old can combine.

Tags: culture, history, sicily

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