Si Trova: a Catania, in piazza Dante
Lat: 37° 30' 13.76690" N - Long: 15° 4' 48.46836" E
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What the people of Catania simply call "the Benedictines" is an ecclesiastical complex consisting by an important Benedictine convent building and a monumental eighteenth-century church, the largest in Sicily.
The beautiful external facades are by Giambattista Vaccarini.
It was founded by Benedictine monks in 1558 and is considered by extension the largest monastic complex in Europe.
Currently is the seat of the University of Catania.
The walls of this monastery were lapped by lava during the 1669 eruption; the lava, which destroyed the church of San Nicolò, is still visible in the rear part of the convent.
The Benedictines started the construction of the present church of San Nicolò, but on 11 January 1693 the earthquake that struck the town also caused the collapse of this monastery.
Subsequent reconstruction work led to the construction of the buildings that can still be admired today, a true splendor of the Catania Baroque.
The western cloister is the oldest and was built on the ruins of the previous building, of which some traces of the sixteenth-century foundations in the basement are recognizable, in the center there is a large seventeenth-century marble fountain.
In the basement of the monastery you can also admire the mosaics of an ancient Roman domus.
Remains of a Roman street with some buildings are also visible in front of the monumental entrance of the monastery.
The reconstruction work after the earthquake of 1693 did not concern the facade of the church, which remained unfinished.
The great organ that was built by Donato Del Piano deserves special attention; it is the largest and most famous organ of the time, the fame of the beauty and power of sound produced by its 2,378 pipes was world-class.
Today, after many years of oblivion, the organ of Donato Del Piano has resumed playing, certainly not with the same power of sound so extolled by writers of the past.
Today the church also preserves a 40 meter long sundial and the memorial to the deads of the two world wars.
At the end of the nineteenth century the convent housed barracks, schools and technical institutes, for a certain period also the Civic Museum, the astrophysical observatory and the geodynamic laboratory, but above all it became headquarters of the Civic Library of Catania, formed starting from the Benedictine Library and, with the successive enlargements, became the today's institution of the Libraries reunited Civic and Ursino Recupero, which boasts more than 200.000 volumes besides manuscripts, parchments, photos, prints and periodicals.
Since 2002, UNESCO has included the Benedictine Monastery on the List of World Heritage Sites.
Guided tours of the site take place every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday only in the morning; the visit also allows you to see the night choir overlooking the main altar of the Church of San Nicolò l'Arena and the kitchens and cellars of the 18th century.
For info: Cultural Workshops tel: 095.7102767, 334.9242464 website: www.officineculturali.net
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