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.

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The rediscovered chapel

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

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

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

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The king’s mark

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The original design

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The southern portico

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The balance between architecture and light

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

Mosaic decoration

The Cathedral over the centuries

The area of the Sanctuary

The side aisles

A remarkable ceiling

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The beginning of the construction site

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

Roger II’s strategic design

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

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

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

Under the crosses of the Bema

The chapel of St. Benedict

A tree full of life

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

The mosaics of the presbytery

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

The lost chapel

The decorated facade

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The Chapel of the Kings

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

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

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

The longest aisle

The mosaics of the apses

Survey of the royal tombs

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

Palermo: the happiest city

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

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The cultural substrate through time

The senses tell Context 1

The towers and the western facade

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

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

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

Squaring the circle

The cemetery of kings

Ecclesia munita

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

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

A palimpsest of history

Worship services

The stone bible

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The Virgin Hodegetria

A Northern population

Interior decorations

The Bible carved in stone

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

A controversial interpretation

A space between the visible and the invisible

The Great Restoration

Transformations over the centuries

A new Cathedral

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

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period