Cefalù Cathedral
the facade and the portico

A compositional design that combines nordic examples with new artistic languages, over the centuries

Even to this day, when we look at the Cathedral of Cefalù, we can see the gradual architectural transformations forged over time, compared to the original site of Roger, unlike the plan of the building that has remained almost completely unchanged. It displays a subtle dialogue with the norman buildings of Mazara and Miletus , built half a century earlier at the behest of the Great Count Roger .
Both sovereigns also looked at Benedictine-Cluniac planimetric schemes , traceable to Cluny II (950 – 975), which had been influential across Europe, from Normandy to southern Italy.
History tells us, thanks to documents, of the relationship between Roger II , Abbot Suger of Saint Denis and Peter of Cluny , with regard to the first construction phase of the basilica, which can be traced back to the foundation in 1131. From this year, the site was extended in four periods over the centuries. From 1131 to 1145, the founding ruler of the establishment, the Basilica-Cathedral, aimed to reorganise the Sicilian dioceses by endowing Cefalù with a bishop.From 1145, the year of the king’s death, two porphyry sarcophagi were placed in the Basilica – Mausoleum for his burial. At the same time, the already established factory was embellished with the addition of mosaics. Between 1154 and 1170, work continued on an incomplete project, which was further aggravated by the now faint hope of receiving the remains of the sovereign in the Basilica. From the episcopate of Arduino II , the last phase began in 1223 and lasted until the final consecration of the Temple, which took place in 1267, at the same time as that of Monreale. At that time, the Cathedral did not reflect the ambitious design of its founder.
Even today, it remains unfinished and resized when compared to Roger’s project, starting from the lowered heights and the different volumes, not to mention the gaps in the external architectural elements. The building’s plan features a balanced volumetric synthesis aimed at emphasizing the continuous dialogue between inside and outside, a metaphor for the relationship between visible and otherworldly space. The Cathedral’s elevations were constructed using through simple static masses, starting from the eastern part and continuing towards the west. They narratively describe the mixture of Sicilian architectural experimentation combined with external multiple influences. Thanks to this combination, the late Norman age in Sicily was characterised from an architectural standpoint by a synthesis between atmospheric interiority and renewed linguistic styles.

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The Cathedral over the centuries

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The lost chapel

A tree full of life

Thirteenth-century iconography decorates the nave’s wooden ceiling, designed with new solutions

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

Transformations over the centuries

A remarkable ceiling

The mosaics of the presbytery

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

Ecclesia munita

The cemetery of kings

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The side aisles

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

A Northern population

The balance between architecture and light

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The links between the hauteville family and the monastic orders in Sicily

Squaring the circle

The columns of the nave: the meticulous study of the overall order

Under the crosses of the Bema

Biblical themes enlivened by the dazzling light of the stained – glass windows overlooking the naves

A space between the visible and the invisible

Roger II’s strategic design

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The Great Restoration

The beginning of the construction site

The chapel of St. Benedict

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

A controversial interpretation

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

Mosaic decoration

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The side Portico: a combination of elegance and lightness of form

The southern portico

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The king’s mark

The architectural modifications ti the cathedral building after the death of Roger II and the transformations of the cloister

The towers and the western facade

The Bible carved in stone

The marble portal: an intimate dialogue between complex ornamental aspects and formal structure

Interior decorations

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

A compositional design that combines nordic examples with new artistic languages, over the centuries

The longest aisle

Survey of the royal tombs

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The Virgin Hodegetria

The rediscovered chapel

The paradisiacal “Conca d’oro” that embraces Palermo: a name with countless faces through time

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The mosaics of the apses

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

A new Cathedral

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The cultural substrate through time

The chapel of the crucifix: an artistic casket based on a previous model

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The original design

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The Cefalù cathedral: a construction yard undergoing a change between a surge of faith and control over the territory

A palimpsest of history

The area of the Sanctuary

The plasticism of the main portico and Bonanno Pisano’s Monumental Bronze Door

The senses tell Context 1

Palermo: the happiest city

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

The decorated facade

Worship services

The stone bible

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

From the main gate to the aisles: an invitation to a journey of faith

Tempus fugit: a strategic project implemented in a short period of time

The Chapel of the Kings

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon