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.

GRAVES IN GENERAL
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 .
Crown
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.

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The chapel of St. Benedict

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

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

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The senses tell Context 1

The Cathedral over the centuries

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

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

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

The towers and the western facade

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

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

A palimpsest of history

Interior decorations

The stone bible

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The area of the Sanctuary

The Virgin Hodegetria

The mosaics of the apses

The mosaics of the presbytery

The decorated facade

A remarkable ceiling

Ecclesia munita

The cemetery of kings

The balance between architecture and light

Mosaic decoration

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The Gualtiero Cathedral

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

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

A space between the visible and the invisible

Worship services

The king’s mark

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

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

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

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

The beginning of the construction site

The rediscovered chapel

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

Squaring the circle

Under the crosses of the Bema

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The lost chapel

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

Palermo: the happiest city

The Great Restoration

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

Survey of the royal tombs

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

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

The southern portico

Roger II’s strategic design

The cultural substrate through time

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

The longest aisle

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

Transformations over the centuries

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

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

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

A new Cathedral

The Chapel of the Kings

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

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The original design

A controversial interpretation

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

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

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

A Northern population

The Bible carved in stone

The side aisles

A tree full of life