On the slopes of the Hyblaean mountains in a land full of carob-trees and striped with dry-stone walls Santa Croce Camerina is a site of very important archaeological settlements like Kamarina, Kaukana and the Casale S. Crucis di Rosacalambra. To the west of the territory of Santa Croce there is Punta Braccetto a beautiful seaside resort with a characteristic small harbour while to the East we find Cava Biddiemi. The position of Santa Croce, a few kilometres far from the sea, made this little town vulnerable to attacks. The sea which laps on 80 kilometres of Hyblaean coast, its weakness in the past, has become today its strength and a natural resource of this territory.
In the Prehistory
You cant speak of the history of Santa Croce without mentioning the event which has conditioned the story of all the Hyblaean land: the foundation of Kamarina in 598 B.C. Before the foundation of Kamarina in the territory of Santa Croce there were only some fishermens and shepherds villages; people built their habitations near the sea. Archaeological researches in areas like Punta di Pietro, Branco Grande and Canalotti, have brought to light handmade articles and tools used in these villages dating back to the Bronze Age. The villages existed even after the foundation of Kamarina but they lived in the shadow of the great hegemony of the Greek-Syracusan colony always remaining small centres.
The archaic town
The ancient built-up area spread out on a top flattened hill, 60 m above
the sea level. The town was in an area between two rivers: Ippari and
Oanis which flew to the north and to the south of the hill. The lacus
camarinensis, an ancient marsh fed by the waters of the Ippari river lapped
on the North-East built-up area. Through recent excavations in different
parts of the hill, some traces of the original urban agglomeration have
been found. The walls, built with small stones, probably belong to the
first houses of the archaic settlement with layers of Corinthian ceramics.
Frequent excavations made by Paolo Orsi and the latest years researches
carried out by Paola Pelagatti have brought to light the necropolis of
Kamarina: more than two thousand archaic tombs which form one of the most
important necropolis of ancient Sicily.
The classic town
The second phase of the life of the town, the classic age, is the period of greatest notoriety for Kamarina. The first forty years of the V century are restless: Thucydides speaks of Hippocrates rebuilding the town. Pindar writes verses on the multitude of houses. Aristarchus writes that to prepare the building material for the new town some mud was taken out from the Ippari river.
The Temple of Athena
temple was built in the highest part of the hill, inside a sacred temenos
which had already been traced out since the foundation of the town. The
cult of the goddes Athena the protectress of female work was the most
practised in Camarina. The cult of the river god Hypparis is also reproduced
Survivors from Camarina settled in a new site in the hinterland, "Kaucana",
where there are still numerous ruins; this site was renamed "Ras
Caran" by the Arabs.
The town centre
The Mother Church, originally consecrated to the Blessed Virgin and since
1900 to St. John the Baptist was built in the XIII century but it was
later restructured and enlarged up to three naves. In the most ancient
part of the church there is a funerary monument of the Marquis Battista
Celestri dating back to the first years of the seventeenth century. In
the lateral chapels we can find a copy of one of Caravaggios paintings:
the "Madonna di Loreto" attributed to Pietro Novelli and a statue
of St. Joseph by Salvatore Bagnasco.