Cathedral of Cefalù, Catania and Messina

The Cefalù Cathedral was built by Roger II in 1131 as a dynastic mausoleum to house his mortal body. Architecturally, especially in its original design, it takes the form of a real fortress. Built in a strategic position, at the eastern end of the town, and under the fortress that dominates the surrounding area, the Cefalù Cathedral, with its façade enclosed between two towers (which also have slits), has thick walls and grandiose features, like a defensive fortress, symbolising and expressing the political centralisation of power.
In Catania, the first cathedral was founded by Roger II. Subsequently, the church underwent various changes at the hands of the different sovereigns who came to the throne. However, it was the catastrophic 1693 earthquake that destroyed the old building, making it necessary to replace it with a new church.
The work phases were long, with various architects taking part in the project. The first was Girolamo Palazzotto, called by the city’s bishop Ignazio Riggio. He began work in 1709 and chose to reuse the structures that had remained standing, such as the three apses from the Norman period. In 1729, Pietro Galletti, from Palermo, was appointed bishop and decided to entrust the direction of the works to the architect Giovan Battista Vaccarini. The latter completed the remaining parts, including the main façade and the outer side wall on Via Vittorio Emanuele. The works were finally finished by Antonino Battaglia, who built the dome. The bell tower was built in the 19th century.
In Messina, however, after the Norman conquest of the city, the church returned to Christian worship and was consecrated in 1197 under the pontificate of Pope Celestine III. Over the centuries, the building was remodelled several times. The last major restoration followed the disastrous 1908 earthquake, which almost razed the entire city of Messina to the ground.