Si Trova: a Catania
Lat: 37° 30' 31.56003" N - Long: 15° 5' 17.56174" E
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Entering this church you are greeted by a staircase that goes into the darkness of a lava cave.
In Roman times this cave, where the water still flows and gushes again, was used as a cistern, to then be adapted for use as an early Christian burial ground.
It became a Christian church in 262, perhaps it was the first one built in Catania.
In the ceiling remain traces of a terracotta brick span, an archosolium, a false window and two lava stone seats.
In 313 the building was equipped with the altar and a triumphal arch.
The environment was covered with frescoes of which today only fleeting traces remain: a Madonna and Child by the third century, whose faces are barely legible.
With the Muslim conquest of Sicily, the upper church was demolished and abandoned.
The normans built a new lava stone staircase to replace a steep descent; the large columns of the presbytery date back to this period.
The underground church became the crypt for the upper temple, of which little is known of its origins, however the presbytery area with a square plan and orientation towards the east indicate a possible byzantine origin.
In 1558 the building was cleared by the Carmelite friars.
Partially demolished in 1674 for the construction of the nearby bastion of St Michele, the church was permanently destroyed by the earthquake of 1693.
The reconstruction lasted a long time, and was completed in 1801.
Again abandoned after the bombing suffered during the Second World War, today it is open again and used for worship.
According to tradition, the lower church housed the remains of St Agata from his death, in 251, to his burial in the church of St Agata la Vetere in 264.
Another tradition has it that Saint Euplio, co-patron of Catania had been temporarily deposed here after his death in 304.
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