Cefalù Cathedral
the church hall

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

In the side aisles, there are some funerary monuments and sculptural groups that embellished the church in the centuries following its construction.

In the side aisle of Cefalù Cathedral, there is a sophisticated Renaissance sculpture of the Madonna and Child, made by Antonello Gagini and his workshop in 1533. Made of white marble and decorated with gold, the sculptural group shows the typical features of the Gaginian style: the gentleness and delicacy of the faces, the flowing drapery and a distinct figurative elegance. On the base, there is a bas-relief depicting the dormitio of the Virgin and there are also portrayals of the commissioners of the work: Filippo Serio and his wife. Antonello Gagini grew up in Palermo and moved to Messina where, between 1498 and 1507, his thriving sculpture workshop was based. Upon his return to Palermo, he established himself as one of the greatest sculptors of the Sicilian Renaissance, obtaining prestigious commissions all over the island, as well as in Calabria.

The hall’s flooring is made of calcareous-basalt ,
In the central bay, the flooring is made of light-coloured and grey limestone paving stones, sourced from a quarry on one of the slopes of the nearby Rocca. This stone is called a Lumachella. In contrast to the bright colours of the mosaics, the dark colour of the flooring gives it a more majestic and severe appearance. Ideal for paving, steps and basalt, lumachella is a biolith with a high concentration of fossil shells.

consisting of stone elements from different quarries, including lumachella, quarried from the Rocca di Cefalù.
The central aisle is defined, on each side, by a row of eight columns surmounted by pointed arches on which the masonry marking the upper space rises.
The columns made of different marbles, such as granite and cipolin, come from the spoliation of earlier factories from the classical period. Among the capitals , some of them reused and are valuable examples of Romanesque sculpture.  At the end of the sixteenth century, during the episcopate of Francesco Gonzaga , the cathedral underwent a radical transformation with respect to the previous liturgical layout. On this occasion, the  Norman ambo , which rested on 7 columns, was dismantled. It had been made according to the traditional canons, inside the seventh bay of the right colonnade. At the same time, the ancient baptismal font , present under the ambo,  was removed and moved under the first bay of the same front.
The baptismal font, originally placed under the Norman ambo, is located in the first right-hand bay of the Cefalù Cathedral. The baptismal font is carved from a single majestic block of lumachella limestone, a stone from the nearby fortress. It consists of a circular basin, an example of Romanesque sculpture, on the edge of which are carved decorations of four lions, identified as the cubs of the lions represented in the base of the candelabra. In fact, the baptismal font, together with the Paschal candle and the ambo, symbolised the Resurrection of Christ. Looking in detail at the baptismal font, and in particular at the lions, we can see from the movement of the tails that two lions are moving, because they have not yet received baptism, while the others are motionless. The basin is supported by a pedestal-support, made of the same stone, decorated with inclined grooves converging towards the collar.

The seven columns of the ambo, together with the eighth where the paschal candle is placed were used to support the two  great organs placed on opposite sides, between the seventh and eighth columns of the nave.
The candelabrum is located in the first right-hand bay of Cefalù Cathedral. The Paschal is placed at the end of the candelabrum, or the patera, and is used in Easter night services as a symbol of the light of Christ rising and overcoming the darkness. The candelabrum has a column-shaped stem, while the historiated capital is decorated with an eagle, on the side facing the faithful, and, on the other, a battle scene between men and six roosters, symbolic of victory. The patera, where the candle rests, is made of lumachella stone, from the nearby Rocca, and is decorated with three sphinxes, recalling episodes from the Exodus. The candelabrum is supported by a lumachella stone base with the representation of a pair of lions, one male and one female: one looks up, towards the eagle that acts as a lectern, as if intent on listening to the Word of God; the other looks towards the faithful, attending the liturgy.

A particular painting , representing an interesting historical testimony, can be seen in the last column on the left of the nave.
In the column located in the first inter-column on the north side of the central aisle, there is an original painting. The conservation is unfortunately not optimal, but the painting could be dated between 1145 and 1148, the years of the mosaic decoration of the presbytery, since it is in Byzantine style. Various scholars have dealt with the identification of the character depicted, who is seated, wearing a large cloak, a gem-bearing collar, wearing a three-crowned tiara and in the act of offering a two-headed tablet. It could be a woman, namely the Basilissa Irene, wife of Emperor John II Comnenus, depicted with a crown and jewels. In this case, the two male faces would represent the emperor and his son, Alexius. Other scholars shift the date to 1300 and identify the individual as Pope Urban V who, as a member of the Benedictine order, again moved the Holy See from Avignon to Rome. The head-dress would thus be identified with the three-crowned tiara, typical of the Benedictines, and the tablet with the two heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, found in the Lateran Basilica by Urban V himself. A final and suggestive hypothesis considers this mysterious bishop to be Saint Cataldo, bishop of Rachau and Patron Saint of Taranto. The figure of the Saint is also present in the Palatine Chapel and in the Monreale Cathedral.

The organs have recently been dismantled in order to berestored and, at the same time,to recover the columns as part of a project designed to reinsert them in their original location. The nave is covered by a precious wooden ceiling dating back to the end of the 12th century, decorated with traditionally medieval paintings.

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

A tree full of life

The rediscovered chapel

The mosaics of the presbytery

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The beginning of the construction site

The senses tell Context 1

The lost chapel

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

The Gualtiero Cathedral

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

The king’s mark

The southern portico

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The mosaics of the apses

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

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

A new Cathedral

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The Virgin Hodegetria

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The stone bible

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The balance between architecture and light

The decorated facade

The area of the Sanctuary

Mosaic decoration

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

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

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

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

A remarkable ceiling

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

Worship services

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

Squaring the circle

The cultural substrate through time

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

Beyond the harmony of proportions

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

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

The Bible carved in stone

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

Interior decorations

Roger II’s strategic design

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

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

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

Palermo: the happiest city

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

Transformations over the centuries

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

A Northern population

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

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The Chapel of the Kings

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The towers and the western facade

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The longest aisle

The Great Restoration

A space between the visible and the invisible

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

Survey of the royal tombs

A palimpsest of history

Ecclesia munita

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The original design

Under the crosses of the Bema

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

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The chapel of St. Benedict

The cemetery of kings

The Cathedral over the centuries

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

A controversial interpretation

The side aisles