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.

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Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

A palimpsest of history

The stone bible

Squaring the circle

The Chapel of the Kings

A tree full of life

The longest aisle

The Bible carved in stone

The lost chapel

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

The Kings’ Cathedrals

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The side aisles

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

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

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

A Northern population

Mosaic decoration

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The rediscovered chapel

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

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The chapel of St. Benedict

The cemetery of kings

The decorated facade

The original design

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The towers and the western facade

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

The southern portico

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

Survey of the royal tombs

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

Palermo: the happiest city

Under the crosses of the Bema

A remarkable ceiling

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

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

A new Cathedral

The balance between architecture and light

The king’s mark

Worship services

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

Ecclesia munita

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

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

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

The mosaics of the apses

The cultural substrate through time

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

The Cathedral over the centuries

The beginning of the construction site

Interior decorations

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The Virgin Hodegetria

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The area of the Sanctuary

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The mosaics of the presbytery

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 side Portico: a combination of elegance and lightness of form

A space between the visible and the invisible

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

Transformations over the centuries

The Great Restoration

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

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

Roger II’s strategic design

A controversial interpretation

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

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The senses tell Context 1