Cefalù Cathedral
context 3

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

The building stands out on a platform on the imposing rocky mass stretching out towards the sea, embraced by the jagged peaks of the Sicilian Apennines between the Nebrodi and the Madonie mountains. It represents the completion of a grand programme, not without its ups and downs, reflecting the sovereign’s faith and desire to control the territory.
If we look at the rest of the landscape, a sequence of silhouettes comes to life, built at different times and hierarchically dependent on the cathedral.These include the cloister , the bishop's palace , the seminary   with its adjoining courtyard and the turnial from a later period.
The latter appears as a large embankment functioning as a churchyard, also used as a burial place. Legend has it that the earth it was made from came from Jerusalem because of its special properties for preserving bodies. Originally, access to the Cathedral was gained via a wide staircase or an incline with the aim of placing the building in a predominant position with respect to the urban fabric below. Access to the temple from the outside must have been characterised by a gradual and continuous ascent, symbolically linked to that towards the biblical Mount of the Transfiguration. This was interrupted by the subsequent addition of the turniale and steps, close to today’s main doorway, where the ascent resumes from the royal gate and ends at the altar. A recurring aspect in Romanesque churches is the perception of mass, already outlined in the elevation, which then becomes more consistent in the interior spaces, brought to life by the solid dynamism of the naves and the thick walls. The Cathedral of the Most Holy Saviour, designed in its original form by Nordic craftsmen as an Ecclesia Munita , included a series of multi-level walkways built into the wall cavity. They were used to defend the Cathedral and were intended to connect the façade’s two towers with the transept . Production was interrupted immediately after the death of Roger II in 1154, leading to a downsizing of the original architecture. In fact, following the completion of the transept, according to the original model, the body of the naves was transformed by lowering the ridge height of the nave’s roof, as well as that of the side aisles.
The outcome of this re-thinking was the creation of a new triumphal arch at a lower level, resulting in the abandonment of the original arch in the outer masonry. For this reason, the planned walkways were not built, although the posterns built in the western front of the  transept, which led to the pathway to the towers, still remain.

The chapel of St. Benedict

Palermo: the happiest city

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The beginning of the construction site

The Kings’ Cathedrals

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

The Cathedral over the centuries

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

A Northern population

The Gualtiero Cathedral

A controversial interpretation

The rediscovered chapel

The Great Restoration

The Chapel of the Kings

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

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

A space between the visible and the invisible

The area of the Sanctuary

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

Ecclesia munita

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The decorated facade

Interior decorations

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

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

Under the crosses of the Bema

The side aisles

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The longest aisle

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The mosaics of the apses

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The balance between architecture and light

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

Squaring the circle

Transformations over the centuries

A new Cathedral

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

Survey of the royal tombs

A tree full of life

The cultural substrate through time

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

The mosaics of the presbytery

Worship services

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

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

The Bible carved in stone

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

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The king’s mark

Roger II’s strategic design

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

The southern portico

The original design

The stone bible

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

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

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

The cemetery of kings

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

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

A remarkable ceiling

Mosaic decoration

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The lost chapel

The Virgin Hodegetria

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

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

The senses tell Context 1

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

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The towers and the western facade

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

A palimpsest of history