Hypogea and Catacombs: the Paleochristian era

The senses tell of the Catacombs of St. John

The refrigerium: feeding the dead

Through the underground tunnels it is possible to find some tombs with a unique appearance, covered by slabs with three holes on the surface.
You can immediately sense the sacral power and beauty of an ancient rite: the refrigerium, literally meaning “refreshment”, i.e. the funeral banquet ceremony intended to “nourish” the soul of the deceased and promote passage to eternal life.
During the banquet, the living consoled the dead by pouring wine, milk and honey through holes made in the slab.
The refrigerium was a wish to participate in the heavenly banquet and took place during the mourning period (the third, seventh, ninth, thirtieth and fortieth day after the death of the deceased).

From invocations to the spirituality of silence

The common and widespread custom of placing amulets on tombs to ward off evil, including bells, silver and gold plates and iron hooves, and of whispering invocations and prayers of all kinds, were some of the many elements of superstition that adepts of the new faith inherited from paganism.
These rites were contrasted by the silence of the catacombs, a sacred, meaningful silence full of history and mystery, more eloquent than words themselves.
This calm atmosphere, evocative of the life and sacrifice of the first Christians, was a privileged place of spiritual meditation and renewal of faith.
The courageous witness of the martyrs challenged the first Christians and made them reflect.

Oils, flowers and ointments

The smell generally associated with cemeteries is a combination of an acrid, stale smell and the tenacious and insistent scent of flowers.
However, though cemeteries now stand in the open air, when travelling back in time to the ancient underground burials of Syracuse, we must imagine environments almost without any ventilation, which, immersed in the damp, would retain all kinds of smells.
For this reason the custom of spreading oils, flowers and ointments inside the tombs was common.
The bodies were perfumed with myrrh ointment, while aromatic essences were poured into small cups or glass jars to offset the rotting smell.

Syracuse during the tyranny of Dionysius

The Athenaion of the tyrant Gelon

Roman Syracuse, a military power thanks to the genius of Archimedes

The Altar of Hieron II: Blood and fire place

Castello Maniace

The Greek Theatre of Syracuse

Piazza del Duomo, a sacred place of the ancient Greeks

The architecture of the Piazza

Pantalica: where nature and history merge

Legends and magic echoes in the Latomie of Syracuse

The Venationes

Crypt of San Marciano

The Church of San Giovanni alle Catacombe

The Spanish fortification

Neapolis from past to present

The Senatorial Palace

The Gladiator performances

The Dionysian Walls: a masterpiece of Greek engineering

The functions of Castello Maniace

Temple of Apollo

The cultural significance of tragedy

The Jews, a wandering people

The Museion and the Grotta del Ninfeo

The Roman Amphitheatre

The Church of St. Lucia to the Abbey

Traces of Christianity in Syracuse

Ortygia. Venus rising from the waters of the port

Where seas and civilisations meet

The catacombs of San Giovanni

The Euryalus Fortress

The Ear of Dionysius and the Grotta dei Cordari

Inside the Cathedral of Ortygia

King Hyblon’s kingdom: Pantalica, between history and legend

Giudecca, the hidden Jewish heart of Syracuse

Byzantine Pantalica

The Culture of Pantalica

The Cathedral of Syracuse