The ruins of the Temple of Apollo are one of the first landmarks you come across when entering Ortigia, the oldest part of the city of Syracuse. This is a very important example because it marks a change in the way temples were built in Sicily, from wood to stone. Every morning, except Sunday, the oldest market in Ortigia is held near the Temple of Apollo.
History of the Temple of Apollo in Syracuse
The Temple of Apollo was built at the beginning of the 6th century and is the oldest Doric monument in Sicily. Over the centuries the building has undergone several modifications. It was first converted into an early Christian church, then into an Arab mosque and finally into a Norman basilica. In 1537, Charles V decided to use the building as a quarry, as part of a larger project for new fortifications in Sicily. The sovereign ordered the individual stone blocks from the Temple to be used for the construction of Ortigia’s new walls. In 1562, the Temple of Apollo was incorporated into a Spanish barracks, along with several other buildings, including the Chiesa della Madonna delle Grazie (Church of Our Lady of Grace) in 1664. In the early 20th century, the houses around the temple remains were cleared so that the remains could be more easily viewed, as we see them today.
Interesting fact: The traveller, Dominique Vivant Denon, recounts in his Voyage en Sicile of 1788 that he had to ask a private individual for access to his home in order to see part of the temple.
The Temple’s architecture
The Temple of Apollo’s architectural design is considered pioneering for its time. It marked the definitive transition from a building style based on wooden structures to one using stone. A local sandstone with a deep yellow hue, called ‘pietra giurgiulena’, was used in the construction. The temple had a total of 46 monolithic columns, six front columns in a double row and seventeen side columns. An inscription on one of the eastern basement steps made it possible to attribute the temple to the worship of Apollo.
The engraving reads: “Kleomede made for Apollo (the temple), the son of Knidieidas, and raised the colonnades, beautiful works”.
The original polychrome terracotta decoration, including fragments of the sima, acroteria and some roof tiles are on display at the Paolo Orsi Museum.Aggiungi ai preferiti