St. John Church (Sybil's Grotto)


Sibyl. Eternal Sibyl.
Unto you ran
pilgrims vexed.
You received the afflicted
and gave prophesy and hope.

For centuries and millennia
you have rent time
with a long, long lament
in the Lagoon of the firmament.
Who pierced your heart?
Who has ravaged your destiny?

Sybil's Grotto - open

St. John Church - open

Lilybeum Sybil’s Sepulchre

 The first construction work of Saint John the Baptist’s church seems to have started in the 5th century A. C. with the first Lilybeum bishops, Gregorius and Pascasino.  It was built on a fresh water source:  the Lilybeum Sybil’s cave.  At the beginning it belonged to the Basilian order and then passed to the Jesuits.

This ancient place of worship, devoted to the adoration of water, became a baptismal font and is identified with the dwelling place of the Lilybetan Sybil or Sicilian Sybil, place of pilgrimage and predictions.

A Christian monument of the ancient Lilybeum, of great interest for the miraculous power of its water, the Sybil’s place is a deep cave where the first Lilybeum Christians used to meet until the 5th century.

At the cave centre the source of water gushes out.  In front of the cave there is a stone altar with a 15th century marble image of Saint John the Baptist, co-patron of the town.

 …according to ancient accounts, it is said to have been the Cuman Sybil’s sepulchre (Solinus II 6, V 7) or a natural source used by Carthagininan priests who followed General Hannibal in 410 B.C. He is said to have given the town the name of Lilybeum. (Diodorus Siculus XII 14, 4)

….Hannibal, the Carthaginian, progressed on the promontory in front of Libya and set up camp on that well called Lilybeum…

 Solinus, a Latin scholar of the 3th century A. C., so says in his Raccolta di Cose Memorabili  (Collection of Memorable Things):…The town…of Marsalais famous for the Lilybeum Sybil’s sepulchre…