Palermo Cathedral
The great Presbytery and the apses

Ecclesia munita

The Palermo Cathedral was designed as an ecclesia munita , a system already conceived for the Cefalù Cathedral and for the coeval construction of Monreale , creating a series of passages within the walls and in the upper parts, like walkways, protected by a series of battlements, placed at the crown of the sacred building.In the Presbytery area, these passages were opened up towards the inside of the church, with a colonnaded loggia, built with terracotta bricks, with lily capitals, covered with a painted plaster, with the colours that characterise the sacred area of the Sanctuary : porphyry red, which refers to royalty and divine nature, and the bluish green of serpentine, which refers to human nature, according to the canons of Byzantine tradition.

The interior of the church was treated with a “ pietra rasa ” finish and with lime plaster. Investigations carried out during the last restoration confirmed that no mosaic decoration was planned for the walls. The floor followed the classic decorative patterns of the period, consisting of marble slabs inlaid with geometrically designed cosmatesque mosaics. A residual part of the original flooring is visible today in the presbyteral area of the present choir. The external finish of the entire building was influenced by the cultural temperament of the time, with references to Islamic decoration, with walls covered in white stucco plaster and chromatic red and dark blue inserts. There is a one constant which is present throughout Norman architecture in southern Italy, consisting of the “ lava inlay ” ornamentation with geometric designs, symbols and floral depictions. This technique, which is not found in the Cefalù Cathedral, was instead widely used to decorate the apses of the Palermo Cathedral and the Monreale Cathedral.

Roger II’s strategic design

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

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

Under the crosses of the Bema

The king’s mark

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

Survey of the royal tombs

The stone bible

A new Cathedral

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

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

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

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

The original design

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

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

Transformations over the centuries

A remarkable ceiling

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The rediscovered chapel

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

Worship services

Ecclesia munita

The cultural substrate through time

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The southern portico

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

A Northern population

Interior decorations

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The senses tell Context 1

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

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The Cathedral over the centuries

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

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

Beyond the harmony of proportions

A controversial interpretation

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

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

A tree full of life

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

The Virgin Hodegetria

The cemetery of kings

The balance between architecture and light

The lost chapel

The beginning of the construction site

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

Squaring the circle

The towers and the western facade

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The Great Restoration

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

A palimpsest of history

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

The side aisles

Palermo: the happiest city

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The area of the Sanctuary

The mosaics of the apses

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The chapel of St. Benedict

The Gualtiero Cathedral

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

The decorated facade

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The longest aisle

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

The mosaics of the presbytery

A space between the visible and the invisible

The Bible carved in stone

The Chapel of the Kings

Mosaic decoration

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations