Drawn during the artist's journey through Southern Italy with the young Jacques Thierry, son of a wealthy shipowner, around 1664. Other drawings by Schellinks from the journey are illustrated in P. Schatborn, Drawn to Warmth, exhib. cat., Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, 2001, p. 176. Another drawing of Messina by Schellinks is in the Albertina in Vienna.
The fountain in the foreground of the present drawing is by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli, and was finished in 1553. The Cathedral itself, in origin a Norman structure begun by King Roger II at the beginning of the 12th Century, was extensively remodelled in the 19th Century.