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Messina is known as the gateway to Sicily, with its port shaped like a sickle, it has always been a trading city. Messina was founded by the Greeks who named it Zancle which is connected to the word Scythe, in the ancient native tongue of the city, and was also the name of the legendary king, who built the harbour, whose name was said to be Zanclus.
Messina suffered two violent earthquakes 1783 and 1908. The port was also heavily bombed during the second world war, which means Messina is now almost completely modern. Learning from past lessons, modern Messina is constructed with safety in mind. Streets are wide and buildings relatively low. The astronomical clock on the bell-tower is the largest mechanical clock in the world. It consists of several layers, different figures symbolizing the period of life, the death and the local legend of the Virgin Mary which delivers a letter to the ambassadors of Messina in which she thanks and agrees to protect the inhabitants of the town. There also is a perpetual calendar, with the signs of the zodiac, and the different phases of the moon. At midday all the figures come to life.
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