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Catania, a seaport and capital of the province of the same name in Sicily, is situated on the eastern side of Mount Etna in a very fertile region. It was known to the ancients as Catana or Catina. Founded (c. 730 B. C. ) by Chalcidian emigrants from Naxos, Catania was soon a flourishing city. Hiero I, King of Syracuse, in 470 B. C. transported these first settlers to Leontini (now Lentini) and filled Catania with Syracusans and Polopennesians. The former inhabitants attempted to regain possession of the city, but were driven back by Dionysius and Agathocles. Catania accepted the Roman yoke during the First Punic War, and after the fall of the Roman Empire shared the fate of Sicily. The city has suffered much from the eruptions of Etna. Most of its old monuments are buried under the lava. According to legend the Faith was first preached there by St. Beryllus, an immediate Disciple of Christ. During the persecution of Decius the virgin St. Agatha suffered martyrdom. At the same period or a little later the Bishop of Catania was St. Everus mentioned in the acts of the martyrs of Leontini (303). This same year is marked by the martyrdom of the Deacon Euplius and others. Domninus, Bishop of Catania, was present at the Council of Ephesus (431); another bishop, Fortunatus, was twice sent with Ennodius by Pope Hormisdas to Emperor Anastasius I to effect the union of the Eastern Churches with Rome (514, 516). Bishops Leo and Junius appear in the correspondence of St. Gregory the Great . In 730 Bishop Jacobus suffered martyrdom for his defence of images. Another bishop, St. Leo II, was known as a wonder-worker ( thaumaturgus ). Bishop Euthymius was at first an adherent of Photius, but in the Eighth General Council approved the restoration of Ignatius as patriarch. Among other bishops of Catania may be noted, Giuliano della Rovere, later pope under the name of Julius II. The cathedral was destroyed by the earthquake of 22 January, 1693, in which thousands of people met their death. The church del San Carcere contains beautiful sculptures of the eleventh century and a fine painting of St. Agatha by Bernardino Negro. The church of San Nicolò possesses fine paintings and a magnificent organ of 2916 pipes, built under Abbot Donato del Piano. The adjoining Benedictine monastery is famous for its cloister, library, and rich collection of paintings. In the ninth century, while still a Greek city, Catania became suffragan to Monreale. In 1860 it was made an archiepiscopal see, immediately subject to the Holy See. The archdiocese contains 295,300 inhabitants, with 43 parishes, 16 religious houses of men and 17 of women, and 47 educational institutions.
The University of Catania was founded by Pope Eugenius IV in 1444 with the co-operation of Alfonso, King of Aragon and Sicily. The papal Bull of erection, besides establishing the usual faculties on the model of Bologna, authorized the teaching of Greek and Latin. Funds for the endowment were provided by the municipality of Catania and by royal grants. The privileges of the university were confirmed in 1458 and 1494. It comprises at present the Faculties of Law, Medicine, Natural Sciences, Philosophy and Letters, with 105 professors and 1100 students. The library, founded in 1755 by the Benedictine abbot, Vito Arnico, contains 120,000 volumes.
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