Cefalù Cathedral
context 1

Roger II’s strategic design

The particular position of Cefalù, situated on the most important passes between the Val di Mazara and the Val Demone , as well as being a decisive transit area for the Madonie and Nebrodi valleys, became the basis on which the sovereign began the rebuilding of the city, which is almost halfway between Palermo and Messina. Roger II’s project of organic and unitary renovation took shape following the foundation of the Cathedral in 1131.
From an account by the Arab geographer Edrisi , dating back to the middle of the 12th century, the strategic, political and commercial importance of the city was accurately described as follows: “Gafludí, a city-like fortress, lies on the seashore, with its markets, baths and mills, situated in the same town, overlooking sweet and fresh water that rises up (from the rock), giving its inhabitants something to drink. The fortress of Cefalù (was built) on rocks, washed by the sea.” It has a beautiful harbour, where ships come from all over.
The country is very populated. A fortress overlooks it from the top of a steep mountain, very difficult to climb because of the high and steep coast”. The Norman sovereign made significant changes to the urban space, creating a new road layout, built over the previous Hellenistic-Roman era.The new design of via regia, today’s Corso Ruggero, was not left to chance, but gave life to geometric directions at right angles to the longitudinal axis of the cathedral. The order that distinguishes the comb-shaped street pattern that joins the bottom of the road contrasts, however, with the obvious tortuosity of the urban fabric still of Islamic matrix, located upstream of the same. In this heterogeneous palimpsest of actions, also dictated by a far-sighted desire for political consensus, numerous privileges granted to the Church were aimed at integrating the Latin population in a city still populated by Byzantine and Arab ethnic groups.

A controversial interpretation

A space between the visible and the invisible

A remarkable ceiling

The Chapel of the Kings

The cemetery of kings

The area of the Sanctuary

Worship services

The stone bible

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

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

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

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

The side aisles

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

Under the crosses of the Bema

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

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

The longest aisle

A new Cathedral

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

Survey of the royal tombs

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

Transformations over the centuries

Mosaic decoration

The southern portico

A palimpsest of history

The decorated facade

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The towers and the western facade

Roger II’s strategic design

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

A Northern population

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

The Great Restoration

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

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The Bible carved in stone

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The mosaics of the apses

The balance between architecture and light

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

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

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

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The chapel of St. Benedict

A tree full of life

The senses tell Context 1

The Cathedral over the centuries

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

Palermo: the happiest city

The beginning of the construction site

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

The mosaics of the presbytery

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The Gualtiero Cathedral

Beyond the harmony of proportions

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

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The Virgin Hodegetria

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The original design

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

Ecclesia munita

Squaring the circle

The king’s mark

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

Interior decorations

The cultural substrate through time

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The lost chapel

The rediscovered chapel

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work