AREA ARCHEOLOGICA SANTA VENERA AL POZZO

 
Terme, veduta aerea

Situated on a verdant hill a few kilometers from the sea, the vast area that encloses the archaeological complex of "Santa Venera al Pozzo" covers about nine hectares and, through a human and natural landscape, tells its centuries-old story.

 

The settlement originates from the presence of water sources, with thermal properties, which favored human presence since the late Eneolithic. From the 5th century BC a cult center linked to Demeter and Kore is witnessed by clay statuettes of the two Greek goddesses of fertility and nature respectively; the most consistent remains of the Greek age are those of the "house of pithos", a sacred building of the 4th century BC which lies close to a stream, now dried up. Inside it, a pithos was found in which the stream water was conveyed through a terracotta pipeline.

 

The Roman settlement is identified as Acium, mentioned in the "Itinerarium Antonini" as one of the mansiones along the road linking Messina with Catania. This settlement included the imposing thermal baths, well known to travellers in the Roman Imperial age, who stopped there for the therapeutic properties of the waters. Numerous rooms have been preserved from the baths, which can be attributed to at least three building phases dating between the first and fourth centuries AD.

 

A small Roman temple built near the spring (Capo Mulini), of which the podium remains today, is a sign of the sacredness attributed to the hot springs. Over the centuries, the complex underwent many reconstructions, especially in relation to its re-use as a health resort and lazaret. The presence of a rustic villa, built near the baths and the road on the remains of the Greek-Hellenistic walls of the settlement, would indicate that it was part of a large landed estate.

 

From the end of the 3rd century A.D. the villa was reused as an industrial-type establishment with 37 rooms and three kilns. With a constant work cycle, it produced everyday pottery and bricks for construction. The use of the workshops continued until the 5th century AD. In the same area, in the Middle Ages, the church of Santa Venera was built, a saint linked to the miraculous cures provided by the thermal waters, so much so that the Spedale di Santa Venera was established in the eastern area of the baths, where the sick could benefit from the curative properties of the waters.

 

The church, attested in the 12th century and still existing today, was only titled to Sancta Venera in the 14th century, as stated in the Privilege of King Martin and Queen Mary of 30 September 1397. The fame of the Saint and of this place was such that Alfonso the Magnanimous instituted a 'fair' in 1422, which was held for about 200 years. Since 1873, the waters of Santa Venera have no longer been exploited. The baths, declared harmful to public health because they were unhygienic, were demolished in 1895 and the waters channelled into the modern Terme di Acireale.

 

The visit itinerary includes an antiquarium, made in the former Pennisi dei Baroni house of Floristella, which offers a wide exemplification of the materials that from prehistory to the modern age tell the story of Santa Venera al Pozzo primadonna in the same representation, staged in 1884.

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