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.

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The cultural substrate through time

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

Palermo: the happiest city

The towers and the western facade

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The area of the Sanctuary

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

Roger II’s strategic design

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

A tree full of life

Survey of the royal tombs

A palimpsest of history

Mosaic decoration

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The decorated facade

A Northern population

The side aisles

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

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

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

Interior decorations

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

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

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

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The Bible carved in stone

The southern portico

The cemetery of kings

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

The mosaics of the presbytery

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The lost chapel

Ecclesia munita

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The Kings’ Cathedrals

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

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

The Gualtiero Cathedral

A space between the visible and the invisible

The chapel of St. Benedict

The original design

A new Cathedral

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

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

The senses tell Context 1

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

The Virgin Hodegetria

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

A controversial interpretation

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

The Great Restoration

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

Worship services

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

The longest aisle

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The king’s mark

Transformations over the centuries

The rediscovered chapel

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

Squaring the circle

The mosaics of the apses

The beginning of the construction site

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

Under the crosses of the Bema

The Chapel of the Kings

The balance between architecture and light

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

A remarkable ceiling

The stone bible

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

The Cathedral over the centuries

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

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

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