Latomia of Cappuccini in Syracuse

Latomia of Cappuccini in Syracuse

Davide Mauro - CC2.5


 Largo della Latomia - Siracusa(SR)

The Latomia dei Cappuccini is the oldest limestone quarry and is certainly the most beautiful of those in the Syracuse area.
Le latomie are arranged along the edge of a jagged rocky ridge, about 1.5 km long, and delimited the ancient urban layout to the north. Beyond them, the large Epipolis plateau opens up which, in the Greek age, provided no less than 850,000 cubic meters of limestone blocks, used for the monuments and buildings of the city.
Over the centuries the site has changed its destination becoming a prison, a place of worship and a necropolis, as evidenced by the numerous existing hypogea. Already in the fifth century. B.C. Xenophanes from Colofone described the fish fossilized in the rocks and Thucydides, in the VII book of Stories, tells that the Athenians defeated by Syracuse in the battle of 412 BC. they were locked up in that horrid and inaccessible place.
The name of the cave recalls the link with the Friars Minor of San Francesco , a link that dates back to 1582 when the University of Syracuse donated the quarry to the friars because they built their fortified convent in the area above the quarries, in defense of this part of the city whose coast was threatened by continuous pirate attacks. It was the friars who transformed the latomia into a vegetable garden and a garden and we owe the rich and dense existing vegetation, the excavation of wells, the construction of cisterns, wash houses and irrigation systems that are still visible . In 1866, following the subversive law for the confiscation of ecclesiastical assets, the latomia became state property and since then belongs to the Municipality of Syracuse.
The latomia, which is accessed via a long but easy staircase, can be divided into three areas: in the first, the high vertical walls , which reach 40 meters in height, still show the perfect cut of the limestone rock with a characteristic white-gray color. Due to the erosive action of atmospheric agents, the large rock pillar that stands in the center has taken on the shape of the head of a crocodile with an enormous open mouth. Access to the other two sectors of the Latomia is characterized by a short staircase at the top of which is the only intact vault of the entire complex, since time, earthquakes and bad weather have caused the original roof supported by natural pillars now almost all non-existent.
The importance of the vegetation of the latomia is linked to the remarkable apical development reached by the plants in search of the sun, which reach up to 30 meters. The over one hundred year old Poplars still remain of the ancient plant, immortalized in the prints of foreign travelers. The habitat created over the centuries by the climatic conditions and the fertile humus originating from the accumulation of debris, creates a plant composition of considerable visual appeal. These characteristics make the quarries of the Capuchins one of the most important historical gardens in Eastern Sicily.
Until the 1970s, the Latomia dei Cappuccini was the site of numerous events that took place in the evocative space called " Teatro di Verdura ". Usually the actors involved in the classical shows of the Greek Theater, dedicated some evenings to performances and recitals in the Latomia theater. In fact, interpreters such as Vittorio Gasmann, Elena Zareschi, Annibale Ninchi, and many others have performed in this theater.

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