The elephant and the legend of Heliodorus
With the trunk pointing towards the sky, the elephant, the Liotro symbol of the city of Catania, from 1239, from the centre of piazza Duomo, see the Cathedral of Agate. It is likely that the statue of the elephant was built during the domination of carthage or byzantine. According to the geographer Idrisi, who visited Catania in the TWELFTH century , the elephant was already inside the walls of the city probably translated by the benedictine monks of the monastery of St. Agatha under an arch of said "Liodoro". The name "Liotru" is probably due to a mispronunciation of the name Heliodorus, a nobleman from catania, who had tried without success to become bishop of the diocese. The interpretation is universally accepted , is, however, Idrisi who, in his chronicle, also shows the esteem in which the people of catania asked for this sculura: a statue of magic to protect the city from the eruptions of the Etna volcano.
The statue is made from a single block of lava stone; damaged by the earthquake of 1693 it was rebuilt by the Vaccariniche agginse eyes and fangs of limestone. The elephant is dressed in a cloth with the above engraved with the coats of arms of the city. The obleisco place on the schienadell'elephant was brought to Catania during the crusades. Its nature is egittizzante: although not stated hieroglyphics of made sense, is decorated with figures in egyptian style. On the top dellìobelisco are a globe surrounded by a crown of fo-glia of the palm to represent the martyrdom and branches of lilies, symbol of purity.
Higher up, a tablet of metal bears the inscription dedicated to St. Agatha "MSSHDPL" ("a healthy Mind and sincere for the honour of God and for the liberation of his country"), surmounted by a cross.
Liotru is at the top of the fountain of the elephant. The monument, built between 1735 and 1737 by Vaccarini (inspired by the obelisk of Minerva by Gian Lorenzo Bernini) is composed of a marble base biancosormontato by a granite obelisk. this stand is a pedestal placed at the centre of the tub of the fountain is always made of white marble.The sculptures on the pedestal symbolize, finally, the two rivers of Catania the Simeto and Amenano.
The story of Liotru is intrinsically linked to the legendary figure of Heliodorus, the son of a noble family who lived during the second half of the eighth century. According to one of the accredited versions, Eliodoro was one of the candidates to become vescovodi Catania, until he met a sorcerer of jewish origin who taught him of magical practices that would have led to invoke the devil. Heliodorus, who had the power to turn men into beasts, and moving from one place to another quickly, seems to have forged himself the elephant to ride it during its raids, but also for his journeys to Constantinople. To build it would have used the lava of mount Etna. For his actions he was sentenced to death by the emperor Constantine but it was, finally, bishop Leo, renamed, Taomaturgo, to make it burn him to death. The elephant, however, survived to become the symbol of Catania.