When the Messinese saw their beloved church on this square after the 1908 earthquake, they called it a miracle. The earthquake stripped away much of the latter-day alterations and additions to the church, leaving its original 12th- and 13th-century architectural style intact. But because the quake leveled the earth on which the church sits, the structure seems to be sinking into the street today. Try to view the church from its western facade, where you'll see a trio of 13th-century doors.

The interior, now used as the chapel for the university, is in red, yellow, and white stone with tall Corinthian columns. The most outstanding feature is the apse ★, a stellar example of the Norman composite style. A nave and two aisles run to the apse, resting under a severe, brick-built cupola. This church is a kind of Arabic-Byzantine hodgepodge: Romanesque architecture blended with such Moorish features as geometrical motifs, with suggestions of the Byzantine.

In the back of the church is a famous statue of Don Juan of Austria, the "natural" son of Emperor Charles V and a hero in the 1571 Battle of Lepanto. Amusingly, he's depicted with his foot resting proudly on the head of the Ottoman commander, Ali Bassa. The sculptor Andrea Calamech carved this monument in 1572. Incidentally, an even more famous sailor sailed from Messina to take part in that battle: Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Wounded, he was brought back to recover in a local hospital.

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