Cathedral of Syracuse, Syracuse, Italy

This spawned the “romanesque basilica” style of ecclesiastical architecture was as much Greek as it was Roman. Yet the early Romanesque was little more than an imitation of the very first temples-cum-churches. While a number of these churches can be seen in the Mediterranean world, particularly in Greece and Italy, the most imposing of all is Siracusa Cathedral, which began its life as the magnificent, golden limestone Temple of Athena during the fifth century BC (BCE), dominating the acropolis on the highest point of the island of Ortygia. The site, including an area in front of the cathedral where excavations were undertaken some years ago to reveal an ancient altar, was a place of worship since the earliest days of Greek Syracuse and indeed in the times of the Sikels centuries earlier. Archeologists have concluded that at least two earlier temples stood here before this one – the Sikelian structure built as early as 1100 BC and then a Greek one erected circa 600 BC. The large Doric temple was erected on orders of the tyrant Gelon following his victory against the Carthaginians at the Battle of Himera in 480 BC.

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