10 HIDDEN JEMS IN SIRACUSA
# 5 – The ten hidden jems in Siracusa : Piazza Santa Lucia, Borgata
Not far from Ortigia in the Borgata quarter, an old fishing district, today in full redevelopment, lies a true historical and architectural treasure: the Piazza Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy’s square).
Like most of the places mentioned by this Top 10 list, this square does not enjoy at all the popularity it deserves and locals generally only remember about it during rare occasions.
However, the beautiful surroundings in Piazza Santa Lucia have the ability to instill in visitors a quiet serenity, moreso a silent desire to close the eyes and breathe in the atmosphere of sanctity, fully immersing in the simple life of the neighborhood.
The square presents in a marvelous architectural balance both the church of “Saint Lucy outside the walls” and the “Tomb of Saint Lucy” chapel (below street level).
The Basilica of Saint Lucy outside the walls£ (not to be confused with the church of “Santa Lucia alla Badia” in Piazza Duomo) was built during the Byzantine period, in the sixth century; tradition has it that the building should rise exactly in the place where the Virgin Lucia suffered martydom. Expanded during the Norman rule, it was destroyed in 1693 by the violent earthquake that struck eastern Sicily; it was rebuilt in Baroque style, which can still be admired nowadays.
The embellishement of the austere nave of the church was commissioned to the famous painter Caravaggio, who completed one of his masterpieces “The Burial of Saint Lucy”, now kept in the Church of “Santa Lucia alla Badia”, since the building at the Borgata remains inappropriate to accommodate such a work of art, due the high humidity. The church itself is full of surprises: it also contains the tomb where the saint was killed and where she rested until 1039 (the year when her remains were stolen). Furthermore, underneath the building, it is possible to reach the homonimous catacombs, the largest in the western world after those in Rome.
The catacombs can be visited with a guide, but the route is limited because of the immense extension of cubicles underground: do not worry, you can still appreciate the charming feeling that the place exudes millenia of secrets and stories.
Adjacent to the Basilica is the Chapel of the “Burial of Saint Lucy” erected in ‘600 by the famous architect Giovanni Vermexio. Its plan is octagonal and the corners are marked by columns with Corinthian capitals.
By taking in all of the surroundings, the location, the architectural grandeur of the basilica and the awareness of the labyrinthine underground that winds beneath your feet, your mind will may just recall that sense of the sublime and oltretempo which many visitors gladly recount.
Where is it?
Via Bignami 1
Basilica Entry timetable: 07-12, 15-19
To visit the catacombs
Cost of the ticket (the guided tour is included in the ticket price):
- Full price: € 8.00
- Reduced (under 15 and over 65): € 5.00
- reduced school and groups of catechetical instruction: € 3.00
- Free admission for guides and accompanying teachers