Hypogea and Catacombs: the Paleochristian era

The senses tell of the Catacombs of St. John

taste
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).

hearing
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.

smell
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.

Piazza del Duomo, a sacred place of the ancient Greeks

The Athenaion of the tyrant Gelon

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

Neapolis from past to present

The Jews, a wandering people

The architecture of the Piazza

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

The Cathedral of Syracuse

Where seas and civilisations meet

The Culture of Pantalica

Castello Maniace

The functions of Castello Maniace

The Venationes

Legends and magic echoes in the Latomie of Syracuse

The cultural significance of tragedy

The catacombs of San Giovanni

Traces of Christianity in Syracuse

Temple of Apollo

The Church of St. Lucia to the Abbey

The Ear of Dionysius and the Grotta dei Cordari

The Euryalus Fortress

Crypt of San Marciano

The Gladiator performances

The Spanish fortification

The Museion and the Grotta del Ninfeo

Inside the Cathedral of Ortygia

Byzantine Pantalica

The Dionysian Walls: a masterpiece of Greek engineering

The Roman Amphitheatre

Syracuse during the tyranny of Dionysius

Giudecca, the hidden Jewish heart of Syracuse

The Altar of Hieron II: Blood and fire place

The Senatorial Palace

Ortygia. Venus rising from the waters of the port

The Greek Theatre of Syracuse

The Church of San Giovanni alle Catacombe

Pantalica: where nature and history merge