Palermo Cathedral
The Context 2

A palimpsest of history

The Cathedral is located in the centre, in the heart of the ancient city, in an elevated position, close to the Royal Palace, to which it was connected by a covered street. There is a large open space on the southern front, which is now enclosed by a balustrade.
This large square is not a simple churchyard or garden, but a tangible sign of what was once Palermo’s great Friday Mosque and was intended to form the large porticoed courtyard adjacent to it.
This was, in fact, an atrium, originally enclosed on three sides by high walls, surrounded by porticoed arches and with two fountains in the centre. Until the middle of the 16th century, the fair of Santa Cristina was held there. In the 16th century, when the decision was made to demolish the walls and create an open space, bordered by an elegant balustrade, the two fountains which are still visible today, which are probably the remains of the fountains for the ablutions of the faithful in the ancient Mosque, were kept as a memorial.
This is supported by the anomalous position of Palermo Cathedral, which is not canonically oriented on the west-east axis towards the apse, but on the south-west-north-east axis, where its façade, which faces south, is actually directed towards Mecca .













Inside the church, on this façade, recent restorations have unearthed one of the probable seven al-mihrab indicating the direction of Mecca. Other parts of the ancient Mosque were found, and reused in the renovation of the Cathedral, as was the custom of the time, as witnessed by a column in the southern portico, which has a verse from the Surah of the Qur’an .

Today’s cathedral has undergone many changes over the years, especially at the end of the 18th century, when the architect Ferdinando Fuga completely altered the style of the cathedral, both inside to conform to the new taste of the neoclassical style and outside with additions and modifications, including the massive transept, the large dome and the small domes.These changes have made the Palermo Cathedral an admirable palimpsest. Its beauty lies in the various stylistic overlaps, which make it a unique work of art. In its stones, where the evolution of time can be read, the history of this very happy city is engraved.

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

Interior decorations

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

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The mosaics of the apses

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

Under the crosses of the Bema

The cemetery of kings

The stone bible

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

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

Ecclesia munita

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

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

The chapel of St. Benedict

The rediscovered chapel

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The Great Restoration

The original design

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The southern portico

Roger II’s strategic design

Worship services

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The decorated facade

The cultural substrate through time

The Chapel of the Kings

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The Virgin Hodegetria

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

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The towers and the western facade

The longest aisle

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The balance between architecture and light

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

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

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

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

The king’s mark

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The beginning of the construction site

A palimpsest of history

The Kings’ Cathedrals

Mosaic decoration

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

The mosaics of the presbytery

The area of the Sanctuary

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

A tree full of life

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

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The lost chapel

Survey of the royal tombs

The Cathedral over the centuries

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

Palermo: the happiest city

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The Bible carved in stone

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

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

A remarkable ceiling

The senses tell Context 1

A space between the visible and the invisible

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

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

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

The side aisles

Squaring the circle

Transformations over the centuries

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

A new Cathedral

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

A controversial interpretation

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

A Northern population