The Benedictine Monastery of Catania is a jewel of the Sicilian Late Baroque. A Cassinese community founded the complex in 1558. The original structure was modified by two natural calamities: the lava eruption of 1669 and the earthquake of 1693. It was destroyed and re-built and it is now an example of the integration of different historical periods. Visiting it, you can see the transformations due to the lava eruption and the earthquake, but also to the civil uses to which it was destined after the Unification of Italy and the results of a refurbishment project conducted by Giancarlo De Carlo.
A guided tour gives you the possibility to enjoy the Eastern Cloister built after the earthquake of 1693. In the middle of the cloister there is the Caffeaos, an eclectic edicule (gazebo). Next to the Eastern Cloister you can see the Western Cloister, also called the "Marble cloister" because of the marble from Carrara used for the decorations, for the colonnade and for the fountain. Unfortunately the earthquake of 1693 destroyed most of the cloister that was rebuilt with a new style: the late baroque. The visit continues in the sixteenth century basement that nowaday is the contemporary University Library, inside it's possible to admire two Roman Houses (Domus) thanks to an hanging structure by Giancarlo De Carlo perfectly integrated in the structure of the 16th century monastery .
In the second floor you can visit the Night Choir with the balcony (Gelosia) in the Church of San Nicola L'Arena and the Novices Garden built on the lava of 1669. The tour continues in the Kitchen and its cellars built by Giovan Battista Vaccarini, a famous architect of the 18th in Sicily. The Kitchen has a central stove decorated with colourful ceramics and three holes that communicate with the cellar in the basement. The Cellars hold a fascinating relationship with the lava stone: “amazing spaces for their mysterious quality”. Almost all the vertical structures – walls, pillars, arches – are made with lava stone chained with the rough lava floor. Exploiting the characteristics of the lava stone Vaccarini realised a web structure that makes the cellar particularly charming and resistant.
The tour ends at Monumental Staircase, a beautiful entrance with stuccos and bas-reliefs that looks like the entrance of a royal palace.