Cefalù Cathedral
context 2

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The diploma for the foundation of the Cefalù Cathedral reflects important aspects of the personality of the Norman sovereign and his thoughts. Legend has it that the construction of the Cathedral, dedicated to the Holy Saviour, followed the near-death of Roger II and his crew, who were caught at sea by a storm during a voyage from Salerno to Palermo.
No longer able to steer the ship or return to the port of departure, the king, after raising his hands to the heavens, turned to divine benevolence to keep everyone safe, promising to build a temple in honour of the Holy Saviour and Saints Peter and Paul , in the same place where he had landed.
The salvation granted became an important sign for a 12th century man, almost a symbolic message that was meant to protect his rise and reign.
As soon as he reached the promontory of Cefalù, Roger II marked out the place where the church was to be built with his directing rod. So it was on 7 June 1131, the day of Pentecost, that the first stone was laid, starting the construction of the cathedral, in the presence of Bishop Ugone. Roger II, who kept his promise to the Lord during the shipwreck, gave the sacred building a papal mandate and made it a bishopric.
The start of the new construction, built on the remains of a pre-existing Byzantine church , dating back to the 4th century AD and of which some mosaics have emerged, concealed a political as well as a religious message. It was also dedicated in honour of the Great Count and Adelasia, the sovereign’s parents, in connection with the church of the Holy Trinity of Miletus , which housed the remains of Roger’s father.
Moreover, the new church, according to the customs practised mainly in Normandy and Norman England, was a monastery-cathedral designed for the burial of the first king of Sicily .
Although Roger’s plan to erect the religious building as his personal  mausoleum did not go ahead, due to the political aims of the archbishop of Palermo, Gualtiero Offamilio , at the end of the 12th century, the sovereign’s design encapsulated all the renewal actions linked to the new kingdom, born on Christmas Day 1130.

The Virgin Hodegetria

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

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

The mosaics of the apses

A remarkable ceiling

The longest aisle

The Great Restoration

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The stone bible

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

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

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

A tree full of life

The Cathedral over the centuries

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

Interior decorations

The Bible carved in stone

The southern portico

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The Gualtiero Cathedral

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The king’s mark

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

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

The mosaics of the presbytery

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The towers and the western facade

Palermo: the happiest city

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The cultural substrate through time

The chapel of St. Benedict

Under the crosses of the Bema

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

Squaring the circle

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

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The cemetery of kings

Survey of the royal tombs

A Northern population

The Chapel of the Kings

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The beginning of the construction site

Roger II’s strategic design

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The balance between architecture and light

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

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

The original design

The area of the Sanctuary

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

Worship services

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

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

The rediscovered chapel

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

A controversial interpretation

The side aisles

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

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

Ecclesia munita

A new Cathedral

Mosaic decoration

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The senses tell Context 1

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The decorated facade

Transformations over the centuries

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

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

The lost chapel

A space between the visible and the invisible

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

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

A palimpsest of history