Hypogea and Catacombs: the Paleochristian era

Traces of Christianity in Syracuse

The houses and streets of modern Syracuse rise above an underground world, a dense network of tunnels carved directly into the stone: the catacombs, dating from 220 to 315 AD.
The custom of burying the dead in underground places was already known to the Etruscans, Jews and Romans, but underground cemeteries (hypogea) were born with Christianity, which were much more complex and larger, to accommodate an entire community in a single necropolis.
The catacombs were initially located outside the city because urban burial was prohibited by Roman law for religious and hygiene reasons.
The complex of the Syracusan catacombs, due to its importance and extent, is considered second only to that of Rome. It includes the Catacombs of St. Lucia , which housed the remains of St. Lucia, the Catacombs of Vigna Cassia and the Catacombs of San Giovanni.
The Syracusan catacombs developed in the area of the Acradina district, where the fossores, i.e. those who dug tunnels and tombs, used the tunnel system for water supply and adapted some of the places for kilns used in potters’ workshops.
The presence of Christian cemeteries confirms the city’s strong religious imprint. Though there is no historical evidence of the spread of the Christian religion in Syracuse, it is likely that the Syracusans learned of the Gospel message long before other cities in the West, precisely because of the strategic location of the city, which became a crossroads for ships heading from East to West.
Some scholars claim that St. Paul was the founder of Christianity in Syracuse, based on what is written in the Acts of the Apostles (28.11-13), where it is said that in the year 61 AD, a ship sailed from the island of Malta, landed at the port of Syracuse and stayed there for three days. On board, along with Luke was the Apostle Paul, who was being taken to Rome to be judged.

Crypt of San Marciano

The Cathedral of Syracuse

The Ear of Dionysius and the Grotta dei Cordari

The Euryalus Fortress

The Dionysian Walls: a masterpiece of Greek engineering

The Venationes

Inside the Cathedral of Ortygia

The Altar of Hieron II: Blood and fire place

The Athenaion of the tyrant Gelon

Piazza del Duomo, a sacred place of the ancient Greeks

The Senatorial Palace

The Roman Amphitheatre

The Church of St. Lucia to the Abbey

The Gladiator performances

Giudecca, the hidden Jewish heart of Syracuse

Castello Maniace

Pantalica: where nature and history merge

Temple of Apollo

The Culture of Pantalica

Byzantine Pantalica

Where seas and civilisations meet

The Spanish fortification

The functions of Castello Maniace

The Museion and the Grotta del Ninfeo

Ortygia. Venus rising from the waters of the port

The architecture of the Piazza

The cultural significance of tragedy

Legends and magic echoes in the Latomie of Syracuse

The catacombs of San Giovanni

The Jews, a wandering people

Neapolis from past to present

The Greek Theatre of Syracuse

Traces of Christianity in Syracuse

Syracuse during the tyranny of Dionysius

The Church of San Giovanni alle Catacombe

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

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