Main apse

The apse, from the Latin absis, meaning arch, appears as a semi-cylindrical or polygonal structure and is present in both public buildings and churches. Usually, in churches, it concludes the main nave, beyond the presbytery, or the two side aisles and symbolises the privileged place where the presence of God is manifested. During the Renaissance, the quadrangular shape known as the “scarsella” also became popular. The apse was first used in ancient Rome, in the Republican era, both in temples and public buildings. In the Imperial era, it was located on the smaller side of the building, especially in basilicas, and became a privileged place dedicated to the emperor or for placing religious statues. In Palermo Cathedral, the main apse originally ended with the dome of the bowl being extradosed. Antonello Gagini’s tribune was located in the dome, but was dismantled during the restoration work that lasted into the last decades of the 18th century.