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 side Portico: a combination of elegance and lightness of form

The Chapel of the Kings

The Bible carved in stone

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

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

Squaring the circle

The original design

A remarkable ceiling

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

The cultural substrate through time

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

Interior decorations

Mosaic decoration

The chapel of St. Benedict

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

A controversial interpretation

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

Ecclesia munita

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

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

The southern portico

The towers and the western facade

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

A tree full of life

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

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The Great Restoration

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

Palermo: the happiest city

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

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

Worship services

The mosaics of the apses

The senses tell Context 1

The Cathedral over the centuries

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

A new Cathedral

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

The decorated facade

Transformations over the centuries

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The area of the Sanctuary

Survey of the royal tombs

The Virgin Hodegetria

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

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

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The stone bible

The balance between architecture and light

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

A palimpsest of history

The side aisles

The longest aisle

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The beginning of the construction site

The Gualtiero Cathedral

Roger II’s strategic design

Under the crosses of the Bema

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

A space between the visible and the invisible

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

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

A Northern population

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

The lost chapel

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

The mosaics of the presbytery

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

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

The rediscovered chapel

The king’s mark

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

The cemetery of kings