An ancient tradition has it that in 61 AD Saint Paul came to the Church of Saint John the Catacombs (San Giovanni alle Catacombe).
Indeed, the apostle wrote about a short stay in the old Sicilian city in the Acts of the Apostles, when Luke the evangelist, who was traveling with Paul towards Rome, notes,
We landed in Syracuse where we stayed three days (Ap 18, 12).
Saint John Chrysostom was certain that during this short visit Paul had preached in public – hence the widespread belief that Saul of Tarsus (Paul’s original name) was the first to publicly speak of Christianity in Sicily, and in all of the Western world, preaching from the burial place of martyr Saint Marcian, the first bishop of the city, where the crypt in his name is now.
In the 6th century, the Church of Saint John was build over that tomb, over a Christian burial area that had been used since the 4th century (hence the “catacombs” in the name).
Today, after various destructions and renovation, evocative and beautiful Gothic-Norman ruins are all that is left of the building.
Photos via: ©Patrizia