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Badia Vecchia

As with the Duca di S. Stefano Palazzo, Badia Vecchia was acquired by the Council in 1960 for 12 million lire. It was renovated soon after and then abandoned and left to the mercy of vandals. The Naples architect, Armando Dillon, sustained the theory that the name Badia Vecchia came from the fact that the building was the residence of the Abbess Mother Eufemia who, starting from 1355, was regent in the Kingdom of Sicily in the name of her younger brother Federico IV, called ‘The Simple’. But this is only one supposition, even if it is evocative.

However, it seems that the building is called “Badia Vecchia” because it is believed to perhaps have been a ‘Badia’, that is an Abbey. One theory arises from the fact that a sacred painting was found in the bottom of a well used for the collection of rainwater, and it is thought to have been hidden there to save it from one of the many invasions that Taormina was a victim to. And all the niches or recesses inside it were believed to have been for icons and not simply as store places. The Gothic architecture of “Badia Vecchia” is very similar to that of the Duca di S. Stefano Palazzo.

It is therefore deducible that the two buildings are of the same period and therefore late thirteenth century. Therefore, in this building too, the Gothic style has influence of Arab and Norman art. “Badia Vecchia” has three parts with equal surface areas. A marcapiano frieze with lava stone and white Syracuse stone inlay work decorates and divides the first floor from the second. On the poggiano (laid) frieze, three magnificent mullioned windows are positioned next one another to form a single esafora window.

The top of the Badia Vecchia is decorated with swallowtail embattlements along all the façades which give the building the look of a fortified tower. The Badia Vecchia, like the Duca di S. Stefano Palazzo, must have been a fortress along the defence walls. The first protected the northern part of the city while the second, the southern part.