Air-raid shelters (Hypogeums of Piazza Duomo)
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Air-raid shelters (Hypogeums of Piazza Duomo)

The hypogeum of Piazza Duomo is an underground path that connects the Piazza del Duomo in an east-west direction to the walls of the Marina which is divided into a main gallery, from which some minor galleries branch off, one of which rejoins the large cistern of the Archbishop's palace. Built by bishop Paolo Faraone (1619-1629), the cistern played an essential role not only for the water supply of the Archbishop's Palace, but for the whole of Ortigia. Along the way it is possible to see the remains of other wells or ancient cisterns, intercepted and destroyed during the excavation of the tunnels.
A first nucleus of galleries is linked to the presence of a previous quarry located in Piazza Duomo and remembered in the eighteenth century because the stone for the construction of the facade of the Cathedral was taken from it. The access point was identified in 1869 during the construction of public works "almost opposite the entrance door of the Archbishop's palace, but which gave a little to the part of the Monastery of S. Lucia: there was a large pulley, and for it the masters raised stone that was of the same nature as that of the columns… ”The war events linked to the Second World War brought attention back to the underground rooms identified in the previous century. In view of Italy's entry into the war, collection points for the civilian population in the event of an attack were set up by the Citizen Committee of the UMPA (Military Union of anti-aircraft protection). To prepare the air raid shelter in Piazza Duomo, teams of "pyrriators" were called with the task of expanding the ancient quarry, digging a room where the simulacrum of Saint Lucia, hidden with the treasure since December 1942, was kept in zinc crates, and prepare the accesses for the population located in the retaining wall of the archiepiscopal garden with a further entrance to the galleries in the ancient wall of the Marina. An underground path was therefore created that connected the Piazza del Duomo to the Marina, connected to the cistern through a secondary tunnel in the north-south direction. After the war, the refuges were dismantled. Linked to memories now consigned to history, the air-raid shelter in Piazza del Duomo - on a par with any evidence, architectural or otherwise, which makes up the millenary urban history of Ortigia - is presented as a single complex, the final result of the anthropic stratification of the site , which collects in its components - of which the cistern is the chronologically oldest element - contributions linked to different phases of the city's history. (Texts and photos: Regioe Sicilia - link:

Property bound pursuant to Legislative Decree 42/2004 (DDG n. 8797 of 19.06.07)


Card insertion: Ignatius Caloggero

Photo: Ignazio Caloggero

Information contributions: Ignazio Caloggero, Web 

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