Palermo Cathedral
The Kings’ tombs

Survey of the royal tombs

The first survey of the royal tombs dates back to 1781, during the restoration of the Cathedral , when they were moved from their original location in the Presbytery to the new chapel at the beginning of the right-hand nave.

The Chapel of the Royal Tombs, inside the Palermo Cathedral, houses the tombs of the Norman Roger II, first king of Sicily, Constance of Hauteville and Henry VI of Swabia and their son Frederick II, together with his first wife Constance of Aragon. Four sarcophagi are placed in corresponding areas of the chapel, with those of Roger II and Constance of Hauteville in the background, and the funerary monuments of Frederick II and Henry VI in the foreground. The sarcophagi, used as burial places by Henry VI and Frederick II, were carved using elements of red porphyry. The two sarcophagi, intended to be placed in the Cefalù Cathedral, were commissioned by (app. historical figure) Roger II, before 1145: one to hold his mortal remains and the other, to be left empty, ‘for the greater glory of God’. After the King’s death in 1154, his wishes were not respected as Frederick II had them transferred to the Palermo Cathedral, allocating one for himself and the other for his father. The two sarcophagi have grey marble and porphyry slab roofs, supported by six porphyry columns. The entablature of the canopy covering the emperor’s sarcophagus contains anthropomorphic protomes. The first King of Sicily rests in a tomb, with a rectangular case, covered with red porphyry slabs and a sloping lid, supported by a sculptural group of four male figures. Queen and Empress Constance of Hauteville lies in a red porphyry sarcophagus bearing the epitaph “Romanorum imperatrix, semper augusta et regina Siciliae”. Both sarcophagi are surmounted by marble canopies; those for Roger II and Constance of Hauteville are in white marble, supported by columns decorated with mosaics with geometric motifs, together with the entablature.
The opening of the sarcophagus of Emperor Frederick II was carried out by Francesco Daniele, with the help of Canon Rosario Gregorio. Unfortunately, during this intervention the sarcophagus suffered some damage, especially when the lid was moved back into place, but it was found that there were two more bodies inside, besides the emperor. A  subsequent survey was carried out between 1994 and 1998 in a non-invasive manner, using innovative equipment, to conduct examinations, scientific X-rays and DNA sampling. In addition to the body of Frederick, the study confirmed the presence of two other corpses inside the tomb.One of these corpses has been identified as Pietro d’Aragona, while the other belonged to an unidentified woman. The sarcophagus of Constance, on the other hand, was opened for the first time in 1491 by Viceroy Ferdinand de Acuña. Numerous jewels were found, including the sumptuous  crown , made in the Palermo tiraz , five rings and a silver plaque .
The crown of Constance of Aragon, found in the tomb of Frederick II’s first wife, was made in the Tiraz, the workshop of the Royal Palace in Palermo, where fabrics and precious stones were worked. Active during the Arab and then Norman periods, the items produced in the Tiraz included carpets, jewellery and, in particular, the cloak of Roger II and the Crown of Constance of Aragon. The style of the artefacts and the meticulous workmanship of the filigree suggest that craftsmen from different cultures were at work. Dating from before 1222, the date of the queen’s death, the crown can be traced back to Norman production due to the refined gold filigree on the cap, the rough gems gathered in baskets and the strings of beads elegantly surrounding the enamels.

Worship services

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The rediscovered chapel

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

The towers and the western facade

The mosaics of the presbytery

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

A palimpsest of history

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

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

The side aisles

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The original design

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

The Cathedral over the centuries

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

Palermo: the happiest city

Squaring the circle

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

A tree full of life

The decorated facade

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

The Bible carved in stone

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

The Kings’ Cathedrals

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

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

Survey of the royal tombs

The chapel of St. Benedict

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

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

Mosaic decoration

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

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The lost chapel

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

The senses tell Context 1

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

A remarkable ceiling

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The longest aisle

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

The beginning of the construction site

Beyond the harmony of proportions

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The Virgin Hodegetria

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The Chapel of the Kings

A new Cathedral

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

A space between the visible and the invisible

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The area of the Sanctuary

The balance between architecture and light

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

Under the crosses of the Bema

Ecclesia munita

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

Interior decorations

The king’s mark

The Great Restoration

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

Transformations over the centuries

The mosaics of the apses

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

The cultural substrate through time

The southern portico

The stone bible

A Northern population

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

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The cemetery of kings

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

A controversial interpretation

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

Roger II’s strategic design