Mazara del Vallo
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MAZARA DEL VALLO

Along the Southern coast of Western Sicily, lays Mazara del Vallo, which has always linked its existence to fishing and marine commerce. Even today, fishing is the dominant economic activity.
The area was inhabited since Neolithic times due to the sea and the river.
The first urban settlement was however, desired by the Phoenicians (9th Century BC), who made Mazar (a significant port in Fenicio) a port of call for their marine traffic.
Mazara del Vallo then became a Greek polis (city-state) run by Salinunte and after the destruction of Segesta in 409 BC, was taken by the Carthaginians in 406 BC. As a result of the aggressive and expansionist politics of Dionysius I, Mazara passed under the dominion of Syracuse for around 20 years until 378 BC, when it was re-taken by the Carthaginians.
In 210 BC, it passed hands to the Romans and became a Castrum (military defence land) and saw a period of development during Imperial times.
It then saw the arrival of the Vandali and became part of the Ostrogoth Reign, which was then cancelled by the Byzantines with the Greek-Gothic War (535-553AD), on the orders of the Emperor Giustiniano I and carried out by the much respected General Belisario.
After many dark centuries under the Eastern Roman Empire, the Arabs arrived in ‘827, and from then on began conquering all of Sicily. During this period, the City flourished economically and took on its classic Arabic town-planning system with quadrangular walls and narrow passageways. It flourished so well, that Mazara became a Arabic bastion and the main object of conquest by Ruggero d’Altavilla, who conquered the whole region (1072) and made Mazara a seat of Norman Parliament in Sicily (1097). Shortly before, the City had become an Episcopal and construction of Cathedrals began.
There are numerous places of historical and architectonic interest in Mazara del Vallo: the Norman Cathedral in Piazza della Repubblica. It was built on the site of a previous mosque and restored in the Baroque era; the Santa Caterina Church dating back to 1318, but also re-adjusted during the 18th century; the Sant’Egidio Church (1424), seat of the Sant’Egidio Museum; the Norman Church of San Michele (11th Century) and San Nicolicchio (1124).
There are other churches a little further away such as: the church of S.Mari del Gesù (15th Century) with its beautiful Gothic portal and the church of the Madonna dell’Alto, built in 1103 on the wishes of Giulietta d’Altavilla, daughter of Ruggero II.
In 1998, 400 metres under the sea, a fisherman discovered the famous Satiro Danzante (Dancing Satiro), a statue which probably belonged to a court of Dionysius, with a rare and evocative beauty. Today it can be admired in the Regional Museum of Sant’Egidio.

MAZARA DEL VALLO
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