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.

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The chapel of St. Benedict

Worship services

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The original design

Transformations over the centuries

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The Cathedral over the centuries

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

A new Cathedral

The Chapel of the Kings

Squaring the circle

The lost chapel

The Virgin Hodegetria

Roger II’s strategic design

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

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

The stone bible

The mosaics of the presbytery

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

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

A tree full of life

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The Kings’ Cathedrals

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

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

A space between the visible and the invisible

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

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The senses tell Context 1

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

Palermo: the happiest city

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

Mosaic decoration

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

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The decorated facade

The Bible carved in stone

The mosaics of the apses

The towers and the western facade

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

Beyond the harmony of proportions

A remarkable ceiling

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

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

Interior decorations

The southern portico

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

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

Under the crosses of the Bema

The king’s mark

The Great Restoration

The longest aisle

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

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

A controversial interpretation

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

A Northern population

The balance between architecture and light

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

The cultural substrate through time

Survey of the royal tombs

The cemetery of kings

The side aisles

The area of the Sanctuary

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

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

The rediscovered chapel

A palimpsest of history

The beginning of the construction site

Ecclesia munita

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations