Where is Syracuse where St. Paul stayed for three days?
St. Paul had spent the winter on the island of Malta. When the weather improved, he set sail on a ship from Alexandria in Egypt and he was trying to go to Rome in Italy. On this journey, Paul first stopped at the city of Syracuse (or Siracusa), where he spent three days with the Christian community there.
Syracuse is a seaport city in southern Sicily separated from the mainland by a narrow canal. Syracuse is on the island of Ortygia. Syracuse was the birthplace of Archimedes, a mathematician and physicist. Syracuse was founded in the 8th century B.C. by settlers from Corinth in Greece, so Syracuse shows a lot of Greek influence. Some of Greece’s greatest poets, like Aeschylus and Pindar, lived in Syracuse. The philosopher Plato visited Syracuse three times.
Baedeker mentions the sites of Syracuse. There is the Temple of Apollo from the 6th century B.C., which was dedicated to the goddess Artemis (or Diana). The cathedral was built in the 7th century on the site of a temple of Athena. Near the cathedral is the National Archaeological Museum. Here you can see a sarcophagus with carvings of scenes from the Bible, as well as a beautiful statue of Venus with a dolphin by her side. South of the cathedral is the Fountain of Arethusa with its papyrus plants. North of the fountain is a nice sea front promenade with a view of the harbor and the volcanic Mt. Etna.
You can visit the Bellomo Palace from the 15th century and the Maniace Castle built in 1239. Ancient sites include the forum, the marketplace, the Roman gymnasium, the Augustan amphitheater, the gigantic altar used to sacrifice 450 oxen annually, the prison and the large Greek theater with a semicircular auditorium hewn from the rock where the playwright Aeschylus (d. 456 B.C.) directed the performance of one of his plays. This ancient theater is still used today.
Above this theater is a cave that was the end point of an ancient aqueduct. Near this cave are the Streets of Tombs from the Roman period. There is also the little church of St. John of the Catacombs. Here is the Crypt of St. Marcian, from the 4th century A.D. with frescoes to view. The adjoining catacombs are larger than those in Rome.
Other churches include St. Peter’s, dating from 400 A.D., St. Phillip’s (Greek for “lover of horses,”), St. Lucy’s, St. Mary of Jesus, St. Madonna of the Tears and the Capuchin monastery. Beside the monastery is an ancient quarry where 7,000 Athenians were imprisoned in 414 B.C. Syracuse’s patron saint is St. Lucy who died in the persecution of the Roman emperor Diocletian in A.D. 305. Bishop Chrestus of Syracuse represented Sicily at the Church Council of Arles in A.D. 314. St. Agatha (Greek for “good woman”) was born in Sicily and is the patron of nurses.
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