«Piazza San Francesco di Paola» is a square named after Saint Francis of Paola, one of the most important saints of Kingdom of Sicily. It is so closely near to the port of Catania that is commonly the first place that an incoming tourist will see. The square is placed at the end of the oldest region of the city, named Civita, probably from the Latin “Civita Episcopi”, that means “the city of the bishop”, or “buildings around the Cathedral”, that is, the latin region of the city during the northman period (XI cent.).
The square changed many times its appearence: the old bastion built during the empire of Charles V (XVI cent.), mostly ruined during the 1693 earthquake, was definetly destroyed at the end of the XIX century, when even the Church of Saint Francis was destroyed by fire (1894). In those times the sea was where now we can see the railway, built during 1860s, and the convent, now totally rebuilt, was quite surrounded by water.
Today the church is a sanctuary for the veneration of Saint Pope John Paul II, of which a relic is stored inside; the Saint visited Catania in 1994, and gave in that occasion some advices to citizens.