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The Giudecca Tour

2024-01-04 23:33


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The Giudecca Tour

Discovering the Giudecca of "iusu and susu" through the waterways, alleys and monuments and signs of the Jewish presence in Catania.

Discovering the Giudecca of iusu and susu through the waterways, alleys and monuments and signs of the Jewish presence in Catania. An initiative of the Catania Tourist Guides Association.
Legend traces the presence of the Jews in Sicily back to the first century AD when Titus, having destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem, loaded the Jews onto three ships, abandoning them adrift without a captain. One of these ships would have landed in Sicily.
The Jewish community progressively affirmed its importance in the city's economy and society with the introduction of commercial and artisan activities and significant medical activity. The appreciation for their activity and knowledge failed, however, to alleviate violence and discrimination. The traditional and cult practices took place in the synagogue on the Montevergine hill (Giudecca di susu or soprana – today Piazza Dante). The progressive extension towards the south-east up to the Platea Magna (Piazza Duomo) created a new settlement called Giudecca di iusu (or sottana) with a synagogue in what is now Vi Sant'Anna.
The presence of the Jewish community ended with the expulsion decreed in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella, the very Catholic sovereigns of Spain.
The natural events that shocked Catania in 1669 and 1693 erased the "physical" traces of the Jewish quarter but its presence can still be detected today.
In toponymy, Via Gisira takes its name from giziah, the tax paid by Jews for the exercise of worship. The presence of Jewish workers is evident in the construction of the Ursino Castle (1239-1250). On the North-West tower (flag tower) there are two seven-branched candelabra (Menorah) while the five-pointed saddle (Pentalfa) located on the east window is more controversial. Different from the Star of David with its characteristic six points, the pentalpha recalls the Jewish cabalistic symbolism well known by Frederick II.


The search for signs of the Jewish presence in Catania begins in the moat of the Ursino Castle. Due to its robustness, Ursino Castle resisted the lava front produced by the terrible eruption of 1669. The Jewish community participated in the construction of Ursino Castle and found clear signs of their presence. Looking carefully at the manor we find a five-pointed star (pentalpha not to be confused with the star of David which is six-pointed) and, on the Tower of Flags, there is a candelabra typical of Jewish symbolism.


In Piazza Federico di Svevia, in front of the Ursino Castle and next to the Church of San Sebastiano, there is a precious 18th century portal belonging to the Church of San Nicolò Minore, called San Nicolella, demolished in 1955.


In via Naumachia, a few steps from the Ursino Castle, what remains of the "Porta della Decima". From here the goods passed and the duty was paid.

Following the Via dell'Amenano, in Piazza Curró a must stop at the Terme dell'Indirizzo. The site was intended for popular use, well preserved and can only be visited by appointment.


The Gammazita well is located in via San Calogero. The bottom of the well represents the level of Catania before the eruption of 1669. The legend of Gammazita, the young woman from Catania who preferred to die to save her honor, is represented on one of the candelabra in Piazza Università.


A few steps from via Garibaldi, the Church of Santa Maria dell'Aiuto houses the icon of Santa Maria dell'Aiuto. From inside you can access the reproduction of the Holy House of Loreto, a surprising jewel preserved with great care. The interior of the Church of Santa Maria dell'Aiuto, located in the center of the Jewish quarter. The work created by Battaglia (1740) houses, in the center of the altar, the icon of the Madonna dell'Aiuto. Previously the icon was positioned externally and was then moved to avoid traffic due to devotees stationed on the street. Exterior of the "Santa Casa di Loreto" adjacent to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell'Aiuto, built in the 18th century thanks to the initiative and devotion of the canon of the Cathedral Giuseppe Lauria. The splendid scale reproduction of the Holy House of the Madonna of Loreto. The temple, annexed to the Church of Santa Maria dell'Aiuto, is an original reinterpretation of the original Marche building, and is due to the devotion of Canon Giuseppe Lauria. The work of various artists was created in the first half of the 18th century.


The interior of the "Holy House of Loreto", built on the initiative of Canon Lauria, is rich in frescoes and inside a niche on the altar there is the simulacrum of the Black Madonna of Loreto covered with her characteristic cloak. Legend has it that the walls of the Madonna's house were transported to Loreto by angels. On the basis of documented studies, the hypothesis that the sacred stones were transported by ship on the initiative of the noble Angeli family seems to be confirmed.


In the heart of San Cristoforo between via Via Garibaldi and via Via Vittorio Emanuele a network of "curtigghi" created with a labyrinthine construction system typical of the Giudecche and medinas.


A few steps from the Church of Santa Maria dell'Aiuto is Piazza Sant'Antonio, a small courtyard adjacent to the Case Sapuppo. Here, in addition to the birthplace of Giovanni Pacini, we find a small private spa facility (balneum) which probably exploited the waters of the nearby Amenano. In the 1990s, after the square was renovated, the excavations managed by the Superintendence were protected by a steel and glass structure but the lack of maintenance and the constant closure prevented them from being usable.

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