Saint Agatha of Sicily (231 AD-251 AD)

The Christian Saint and virgin martyr, St. Agatha was born in Catania, Sicily, and is one of seven women, along with La Madonna, who is commemorated in the Canon of the Mass. A highly venerated Saint, St. Agatha has many churches dedicated to her and to her crusade. Today, we walked her supposed path through Sicily.

The Catania Cathedral (Cattedrale di Sant’Agata) is dedicated to Saint Agatha. According to Maltese tradition, during the persecution of Roman Emperor, Decius (AD 249–251), Agatha, together with some of her friends, fled from Sicily, and took refuge in Malta. Some historians believe that her stay on the island was rather short, and she spent her days in a rock hewn crypt at Rabat, praying and teaching the Christian faith to children. After some time, Agatha returned to Sicily, where she faced martyrdom. Agatha was arrested and brought before Quintanus, praetor of Catania, who condemned her to torture and imprisonment. The crypt of St. Agatha is an underground basilica, which from early ages was venerated by the Maltese. At the time of St. Agatha’s stay, the crypt was a small natural cave which later on, during the 4th or 5th century, was enlarged and embellished (paragraph taken from Wiki, of course).

A group of us from Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Sigonella met at Piazza Stesicoro  for a tour visiting Anfiteatro Romano, Terme Achilliane, Terme della rotunda, Pozzo di Gammazzita, Fossato del castello Ursino, Sant’Agata al carcere, and Sant’Agata la Vetere. Catania is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites

We started the tour with Trenton’s new favorite creation: Nutella crepes!


Our fearless guide at Anfiteatro Romano
Lucky enough to steal him for a photo at the Anfiteatro Romano

We spent some time at the Piazza Stesicoro and Anfiteatro Romano before moving on to the churches.

Trenton and Denise excited for our adventure
Entrance to Sant’Agata al Carcere
Art from the church
Another view of Sant’Agata al Carcere
Inside Sant’Agata al Carcere

We visited a well with a unique tale. The legend starts when Sicily was under French rule. The well, Pozzo di Gammazita, is a site of the historical center of Catania, which stands adjacent to the old city walls. Gammazita was a young beautiful Sicilian woman in love with a Sicilian man. As the legend goes, a French Soldier wanted to take her as his own. To escape his advances and preserve her purity for her love, she thrust herself over the wall of the well to her death. As a result, the young Sicilian man she loved waged war against the French and took back Sicily from French reign.

Artistic rendition of Pozzo di Gammazita
Pozzo di Gammazita
The Terme della Rotunda

We ended our tour at Castello Ursino, or “Bear Castle,” a castle built in the 13th Century for the Kingdom of Sicily. You can see how the Greeks and Romans rebuilt by the differences in the coloring of the castle. Our guide told us that the top of the castle is so dark because of the severe increase in pollution over the past three hundred years. This castle used to sit overlooking the Mediterranean. But, when Mount Etna erupted in the mid 17th century, her lava spread all around the castle and protruded deep into the Mediterranean. Now, the castle is in the center of the city. unnamed-12.jpg

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