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Taormina Cathedral Square: site to visit along Corso Umberto

Taormina cathedral Square is for sure one of the most picturesque Taormina attractions, located along Corso Umberto I, just a few steps from the entrance of Catania Gate.

Taormina, the ancient Tauromenion, with its appearance of medieval village, its ancient Greek soul, the colours and scents of the Mediterranean vegetation, is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. It is one of the most popular tourist resorts for Italian and foreign travellers looking for crystal sea, architectural beauty, culture, and breath-taking nature. Moreover the climate of Sicily makes it an ideal destination at any time of the year.

After having talked about the famous ancient Greek Theatre of Taormina, today with this post we want to present to you another of the highlights of Taormina attractions: the Taormina cathedral.

taormina cathedral square
View of the Taormina cathedral square: the cathedral and the fountain

Taormina Cathedral and the fountain “Quattro fontane”

Taormina cathedral, is a wonderful structure of Sicilian Romanesque-Gothic architecture dating back to the XIII century, as well as one of the most important Taormina attractions. This architectural jewel stands on the remains of the medieval church dedicated to San Nicola di Bari and was renovated in the fifteenth century and, later, in the XVIII century. The sacred building is part of the medieval buildings of Taormina and it has a complex history that, in fact, justifies the name of church-fortress.

Taormina cathedral, as other Taormina places to visit, is rich in history: the former cathedral was the church of San Francesco di Paola, where Bishop Procopius was killed by the Arab Ibrahim and, following the Norman occupation, the city under the Altavilla became a bishopric.

In the city of Taormina, a thriving centre for cultural and religious life, medieval uses are fully assimilated, and the lifestyle takes place based on the models of feudalism. It follows that the centre of city life moves and revolves around the Cathedralsquare, where Taormina cathedral was built.

The nobles, together with the religious, use a language that translates into architectural and artistic forms, therefore, the exterior of Taormina cathedral and its interiors tell of the civic and religious power and are part of the Taormina attractions for current visitors who come to the town.

Outside of Taormina cathedral there is a beautiful fountain, called also “Quattro fontane”, built around 1635: the four columns at the corners of the central body are surmounted by seahorses from whose mouth the water gushed; in the middle of the main tank, a pedestal holds a crowned centaur woman holding a sceptre and a globe, symbol of Taormina.

the fountain of taormina places to visit
The Minotaur Fountain in front of the Taormina Cathedral

With its impressive structure and majestic architectural beauty, Taormina cathedral looks very much like a fortress, as the details of the building are made entirely with large blocks of stone and finished with battlements along the entire perimeter of the building. The facade is richly decorated, and the showpiece is the rose window made of precious Syracuse stone that recalls the art and the Renaissance decorations.

The main portal of the church was rebuilt in 1636 thanks to the local administrators of the time. This wonderful baroque portal, placed in the middle between two fifteenth-century monofore, is embellished by the presence of two beautiful, fluted columns in Corinthian style placed on two high bases and decorated, on the capitals, by two faces of angel. The jambs, which bear carved eleven figures per side, are the original ones of the oldest portal.

Inside, the Taormina cathedral has a Latin cross plan with three naves and three apses, a typical structure of medieval architecture. The central nave is supported by six pink marble columns, surmounted by capitals decorated with leaves and fish scales. Along the side aisles, you can admire six small altars. At the end, in the three apses, the altar opens in the central one and in the two sides there are two chapels.

altar of Taormina cathedral
The altar of Taormina Cathedral, representing the Last Supper

Taormina cathedral houses works of art of great value dating back to the Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque periods. One of the most interesting works decorates the second altar on the right aisle and is the Polyptych by Antonello de Saliba, realized in 1504 by the nephew of the great painter Antonello da Messina.

polyptych by Antonello de Saliba
The polyptych by Antonello de Saliba (1504) in the Taormina Cathedral

On the left, the Chapel of the Sacrament of the late seventeenth century in baroque style; on the right, the chapel of the Madonna delle Grazie, rebuilt in 1747 with material from a chapel of the church of San Pietro fuori le mura (in Rome). At the altar of this chapel is located a statue representing a Madonna with Child in Gagini-Style.

Madonna with Child in Gagini-style
Madonna with Child in the Chapel of Madonna delle Grazie

The ceiling of the cathedral was made in wood and decorated with Arabic motifs and later modified into Gothic. The beauty of its structure from an artistic and architectural point of view has transformed this sacred place into a real open-air work of art.

Taormina cathedral elevated to the rank of Minor Basilica – by Pope John Paul II on February 6, 1980 – is not only a destination for tourists but also a sacred place chosen to seal the love of couples who choose Taormina as a romantic setting for the most important day of their lives. Clearly the Taormina cathedral is not the only tourist attraction, but there are many other Taormina places to visit  and things to do here…

Taormina places to visit and things to do

Taormina attractions and Taormina places to visit  are endless and getting bored is almost impossible! For example, the ancient theatre is surely the best known Taormina attraction but, if you love fancy big brands, a walk along Corso Umberto I is also a must, as the main street of the city offers many occasions of shopping; besides the exclusive Italian and international boutiques, the street is full of lovely local cafés and craft shops that sell everything from ceramics to jewellery, along with every sort of souvenirs.

If you rather prefer to enjoy a bit of tranquillity you won’t regret walking into the picturesque alleys of the oldest part of Taormina, as well as a visit to the beautiful public garden, created by the naturalist Lady Florence Trevelyan, who moved to Taormina from England in the XIX century.

If you are curious to discover Taormina attractions such as the historical monuments of Corso Umberto and the Greek Theatre, you will enjoy one of our most reviewed and most appreciated excursions on TripAdvisor, the Castelmola Taormina day tour, an experience which combines a walking visit of Taormina and the Greek Theatre with Castelmola, a tiny village located above Taormina, on a very panoramic hill.

Remember that all of our tours and experiences are available and suitable also for cruise passengers, departing from the ports of Messina, Taormina-Giardini Naxos and Catania. We can’t wait to meet and guide you through our beautiful Sicily!

group photo at taormina cathedral square
Group photo during a Discover Messina tour to Taormina

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