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Piazza Duomo, Catania

Legend of the "Liotru"

The places in question are included in the "Regional Map of Places of Identity and Memory" (LIM) established by the Region of Sicily with DA n. 8410 of 03/12/2009

The reference sector is that relating to the "Places of myth and legends" Legend of the "Liotru"

The places included in the IWB: Elephant Fountain, Piazza Duomo (Catania)

The name of Heliodorus it is engraved in the culture and identity of Catania, carved in stone as an effigy of the city. Especially known under the nickname of Liotru, not everyone knows, perhaps, that the Catania Elephant takes its name from a mysterious character halfway between fiction and truth. Eliodoro, in fact, seems to have been a magician born and lived in the earth at the foot of the Volcano and known, in particular, for his spells and misdeeds. According to legend, he would have been the one who gave life to the emblem of the Elephant, molding it with his own hands from the incandescent lava of Etna.

Eliodoro: who was the magician who became the symbol of Catania

Character poised between historical truthfulness and legend, Eliodoro he was born into a wealthy family from Catania in the XNUMXth century AD From a young age he embraced the Christian religion, hoping to be able to become bishop of the city and, perhaps, prefect. At the time that Etna was one of the Sicilian provinces of the Byzantine Empire, while the jurisdiction of Catania, between 765 and 785 AD was entrusted to Leo II the Wonderworker.


The ambitious Heliodorus, despite all efforts, never managed to get the post of prefect, becoming a staunch opponent of Leo II. Legend has it that one day the man received a visit from a sorcerer of Jewish origin, who introduced him to the dark magical arts that would make him invincible. The sorcerer gave Heliodorus an ancient and mystical manuscript, using which he could perform a ceremonial to invoke the Devil and obtain unlimited powers.

Heliodorus, blinded by ambition and thirst for domination, performed the ritual to the letter and, in the presence of the king of evil, agreed to renounce the Christian faith, receiving exceptional and magical abilities in exchange. Having become a powerful magician, he did not use his mystical arts wisely, but dhe gave vent to his wickedness and devoted himself to the most disparate misdeeds.

Among these, according to one of the most famous anecdotes about this character, we recall the spite against the bishop's nephew. During a horse race, in fact, he made sure that the latter won the competition, but, at the moment of the award ceremony, he revealed the true nature of the animal. It was, in fact, a demon summoned by the treacherous sorcerer, who left everyone speechless and terrified.

Eliodoro and the link with the "Liotru"

The magician's bond with the city of Etna, however, has not so much to do with his birthplace, but with his most representative symbol, the Elephant. The name of the "Liotru”, In fact, it would be nothing more than a dialectal“ distortion ”of the name Eliodoro. Legend has it that the beloved and symbolic stone statue, which over the centuries has become the most emblematic image associated with the city, was molded by the hands of Heliodorus himself.

The latter, by modeling the incandescent lava of the Volcano, would have given it the shape of a pachyderm and would have blown life into it. Riding the Liotru, the sorcerer ran around Catania, having fun with the most varied oppressions and making the life of the citizens impossible. Among his bullying, it is said that he bought goods of all kinds from Catania merchants, paying with gold and precious stones, which, once he left, turned out to be stones.

The bishop's efforts to catch and execute the magician were completely useless, since he had the ability to magically disappear and, it seems, that he could manipulate the natural elements at will. Despite this, the emperor Constantine finally managed to sentence him to death, requiring that he be burned alive.

Just like his life, the death of the mystic Heliodorus is lost in the shadows. Following the umpteenth of his misdeeds, committed against the wife of Heraclius, minister of the Byzantine emperor, Bishop Leo celebrated a propitiatory rite to definitively kill the sorcerer. Heliodorus caught fire and disappeared in his ashes, while the elephant created by him became the eternal symbol of Catania, making his name immortal and embodying the spirit and identity of Etna.

Text source: https://catania.liveuniversity.it/

Card insertion: Ignazio Caloggero

Photo: web

Information contributions: Ignazio Caloggero, Web 

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