A splendid circuit of Sicilian Baroque masterpieces characterizes the scene in the Piazza del Duomo at the heart of Catania.
Rebuilt in 1700, on the site of the older medieval piazza, the present piazza has much the same role as centre of the city as it had in the past.
It is a major meeting point for locals, tourists and the city's principle streets, which converge at the Piazza. No need to get lost in Catania! At the centre of the Piazza stands the appealing Elephant fountain, created in 1736. As well as being made in imitation of Bernini's Minerva Elephant in Rome, it is reminiscent of Catania's long and varied past.
Constructed of ancient remains, the elephant itself dates back to the Romans, and is made of lava. The ancient Egyptian obelisk on the elephant's back, decorated with ancient hieroglyphics, was brought from Egypt to Italy. History also tells of a Byzantine magician named Eliodor, who rode an elephant in the town. When this elephant was made, it was named after the magician, whose name, through time and dialectic use, became "Liotru".
To the East of the square stands the magnificent Norman Cathedral, dedicated to the Patron Saint and protector of the city, St. Agatha, and was built on the remains of a Roman Spa. Its present grandeur is in part due to a renovation in the eighteenth century, although the columns on the lower level belonged to the original ancient structure.
Inside, in the chapel dedicated to the Patron Saint, is the treasury of St. Agatha: a collection of valuable works and jewels, visible only four days a year in memory of the city's protectress. A seminary next to the cathedral, recognisable by the white pilasters running with classic symmetry down the front of the building, and the city hall, complete the scene.