Ancient town in the province of Messina, twenty-two churches, four museums, four libraries and a Greek temple of the fourth century BC. dedicated to Hercules, they manage to arouse considerable cultural and tourist interest.
San Marco D’Alunzio is, above all, a city of art, rich in history and artworks of inestimable value. Its foundation would be ascribed to the period between the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age.
In the fourth century. B.C. Alontion, already Hellenized, issued bronze coins with the inscription in Greek characters and possessed cores of armed militia. The Greek Alontion became Haluntium with the Romans and a decuman city, forced to pay tribute on wheat, barley, oil and wine produced in its territory.
At the time of Augustus, it was equipped with an aqueduct and walls in an isodomic structure to protect the city which could be accessed through four city gates.
Having become Demenna with the Byzantines, it lived a period of splendor and prosperity, both from a cultural and religious point of view and the frescoes of considerable value present in the numerous churches built in this period are valuable.
The Arabs, stopped several times, finally managed to conquer Demenna by building a mosque near the Matrix. With the Arabs, agriculture had a beneficial influence because irrigation systems were improved, the cultivation of mulberry and cotton was introduced and trade increased.
In 1061 the Normans occupied its territory, renaming it San Marco and Roberto il Guiscardo had a large well-defended and fortified castle built at the foot of which the town developed.
The 22 churches
Ruins of the Norman Castle: commissioned by Roberto il Guiscardo starting from 1061 on the remains of an ancient pre-existing castle on the top of Monte Rotondo, in a strategic position overlooking the Tyrrhenian coast from Cefalù to Capo d’Orlando to the Aeolian Islands. Well defended and fortified, it became the residence of the Altavilla, in particular of Adelasia, mother and regent of Ruggero II, as numerous parchments still demonstrate today. The recent restoration of the castle walls, together with the recovery of the square and the adjacent alleys, have established themselves as a must for tourists.
Porta di S. Antonio: it has a round arch with lateral ashlars in red San Marco marble, it was one of the four entrances to the medieval city.
The Temple of Hercules: the Greek temple of Hercules was built in the fourth century. B.C. and represents an immense testimony of the classical age, thanks to the good state of conservation. Most likely used for sporting activities related to the cult of Hercules, it was in Doric style, with a rectangular plan, with a pronaos on the front, an “in antis” structure and with side walls ending in two doors between which two columns rose. Its construction, with an isodomic structure, is in rectangular ashlars of tufaceous stone, a particular type of spongy travertine extracted, probably, from a quarry in the Rosmarino valley. At the beginning of the 1600s the portal was enriched with friezes and marble decorations in Baroque style; today there is a cell, a sacred area reserved for priests, originally positioned within a large sacrificial area and transformed by the Normans into a Christian church dedicated to St. Mark the Evangelist, who maintained the role of Matrix until the 16th century. The restoration of 1969 allowed this ancient Doric temple to continue living challenging the centuries.
The necropolis: date back to the period between the end of the fourth century. to. C. and the beginning of the II and occupy two large areas of the country. Exploring a strip of the first necropolis, 47 tombs dating back to the 4th-2nd century were excavated in the years 1978/79. to. C. all with N-S orientation, and in one of them a stringed musical instrument was found, the trigonon, while in another, dating back to the third century to. C., for the first time in Sicily, a playful instrument was found, the kòttabos currently kept in the Byzantine and Norman Museum of Culture and Figurative Arts.
Brazilian Museum: ethno-anthropological museum, with its collection of minerals, fossils and other artifacts from Brazil, it is the only one of its kind in southern Italy.
Parish Museum of Sacred Art: houses about 300 pieces from the Aluntine Churches such as noble coats of arms carved on local marble, wooden statues, canvases, sacred vestments, ex voto, reliquaries and jealousies of immense value dating back to the century. XV – XVI – XVII and XVIII. The room dedicated to the precious ‘Aluntini Liturgical Silver’, with numerous reliquaries, tabernacles, chalices and other liturgical objects made by skilled Sicilian artisans, holds the treasure of the numerous churches in the Aluntino area.
Byzantine Museum: Museum of Byzantine and Norman Culture and Figurative Arts, is housed in the former Benedictine Monastery, built in the 16th century on a Byzantine-Norman church and inhabited by nuns until 1866. Today it includes three large halls, three rooms and services for over 700 square meters of surface.
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