Apses and transept
Cefalù Cathedral

Mosaic decoration

The Temple’s only mosaic area permeates the eastern part of the Bema , starting from the second cross and extending to the area of the apse .
The space is delimited laterally by superimposed niche columns and other columns placed at mid-height, ideally supporting the ribbed vaults . A particularly striking aura emanates from the chromatic finishes of their marble shafts, treated with pigments imitating porphyry and serpentine . The use of these precious marbles and their colours belong to the Byzantine tradition , which links the red of the porphyry to Christ’s divine nature and the green, bluish shades of serpentine to his human nature. These colours are used to distinguish the Saviour’s robes in the iconography of the Church of the East .
The double nature of Christ Pantocrator , depicted in the Cefalù Cathedral, as well as in contemporary examples, is also expressed by the two locks of hair shown on his forehead.

The Christ Pantocrator is represented in the central apse of the Cefalù. Hieratic and solemn, the half-length Christ Pantocrator appears and emerges from a precious golden background, like a casket of divine light. The Pantocrator, from the Greek word for ruler of all things, blesses the faithful with his right hand: he has two fingers arched, which symbolises Christ’s dual nature, divine and earthly, while the other three, joined together, are an allegory of the Holy Trinity. This hand pose was also used in ancient times by Roman emperors when they asked for silence. With his left hand, he firmly holds the Gospel. The volume has an open page, both in Greek and Latin, which contains the phrase from the Gospel of John: “I am the light of the world; Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”. In the sub-arc, it also reads: “Creator of man made man and redeemer of man created, I God made flesh judge men and their hearts.” Christ Pantocrator, majestic and with a stern look, is crowned with a crusade nimbus as a reminder of his sacrifice, richly decorated with gems and jewels. The eyes have an unusual feature: they are formed by a single mosaic tile. On the sides of the nimbus, the Greek letters IC XC, meaning Jesus Christ, can be seen. Christ Pantocrator is the Almighty, the King of Kings. He has a golden/red robe, symbolic of divinity, and a blue mantle, symbolic of humanity. With his great embrace, which spreads through the apse and represents both God and man, he welcomes and saves the faithful. The iconography, of classical Byzantine derivation, is often found in the Christian Middle East, and is spread throughout the south of Italy in frescoes, while in Sicily it was mosaicked, not only in Cefalù but also in the Norman churches of Palermo and Monreale.

The mosaic decoration covers the entire apsidal basin on several levels, depicting Saints, including Peter and Paul in the central register, flanking the apsidal single-lancet windows.
In the upper register, the scene is dominated by the figure of the Madonna standing, whose iconographic distinctiveness, in accordance with Byzantine stylistic canons, is given by the colours of her clothes which contrast with those of Christ. The Virgin is flanked by the Archangels, with two on each side, with the singular representation of the fourth Archangel, Urìele .

Squaring the circle

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

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

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The balance between architecture and light

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

The cemetery of kings

The senses tell Context 1

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

The Great Restoration

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

The towers and the western facade

The original design

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

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

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

Worship services

The Kings’ Cathedrals

A controversial interpretation

A tree full of life

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

A Northern population

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

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

The chapel of St. Benedict

The Cathedral over the centuries

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

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

Survey of the royal tombs

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The king’s mark

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

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

A space between the visible and the invisible

The beginning of the construction site

The Virgin Hodegetria

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The decorated facade

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

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

A palimpsest of history

The southern portico

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

Interior decorations

The mosaics of the presbytery

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

A new Cathedral

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The Chapel of the Kings

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

A remarkable ceiling

Mosaic decoration

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

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

Under the crosses of the Bema

The Gualtiero Cathedral

Roger II’s strategic design

The longest aisle

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

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The Bible carved in stone

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The lost chapel

Palermo: the happiest city

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

The mosaics of the apses

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The side aisles

The stone bible

The area of the Sanctuary

The rediscovered chapel

Ecclesia munita

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

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

Transformations over the centuries

The cultural substrate through time