The remains of 11th Century church of San Giovanni even today strike with architectural beauty, but its real treasury – catacombs from Byzantine times is hidden underground....
The church of St. John the Evangelist was built in 6th century on the site of an underground City of Dead – catacombs from Roman times created after the recognition of Christianity. The legend has it that this was the burial site of the first bishop of Syracuse – Marciano, the martyr of Roman prosecution. And although there is no evidence of this fact, usually most legends reflect some historical events that in fact took place.
The church was abandoned and then knocked-down during the period when Sicily was under the control of Saracens. Its golden times came with the conquest of Sicily by Normans. The church was re-built at the end of 11th century gaining the beautiful gothic form, that today we can only guess based on its surviving remnants….
The rose window preserved its beauty....
Fragments of surrounding walls are the best testimony of architectural beauty of the church complex...
Church of St. John the Evangelist: Interior - Mother Nature claims its territory....
For long the church was serving Christian community of Syracuse as the main Basilica (Cathedral). The 1693 earthquake changed the destiny of the church – although there were attempts to rebuild it in some smaller form, in fact it never rose from proverbial “ashes” in a way joining rather the underground City of Dead.
Today, after almost millennium the beautiful frontal portico and remaining walls together with rosette window (now filled with heavenly colors of blue sky) are still humbling visitors. Interior reveals Greek accents (some Doric columns most likely recovered from ancient temples). But due to the collapsed roof it is rather a deserted area taken-back by the Mother Nature. The small stone staircase leads to the underground crypt of San Marciano – the place where it is said the bishop was murdered and his body buried.
Despite its state of “sorry” the church is still consecrated and a popular place of choice for summer weddings.
Facade of the church of St. John
Fragment of the facade
"Lonely Saint" seems to cry over the ruinous state of the once beautiful Church of St. John the Evangelist
An old Altar Table sometimes is used during "open-air" church services
However the Mother Nature slowly but surely takes the root in one of the oldest Christian Sanctuary of Church and Catacombs
The church complex includes the museum building with small exposition of findings from the times of early Christianity in Syracuse. But the biggest treasure of the complex of San Giovanni is the underground labyrinth of catacombs…
Go back to: --> Top Sites to See in Syracuse
Or, take advantage of already being here and visit the underground city from the times of first Christians:
Note, that you have to take the guided tour, individual visits are not permitted!
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