Cefalù Cathedral

The senses tell the chystro

A wonderful garden

Inside the cloister, which is the extension of the divine Word, the entire universe of human knowledge seems to be concentrated, glorified by the mystery of salvation, whose presence has been embraced by the sculptures and architecture for centuries. The Cloister Garden, according to tradition, is divided into four gardens where, in the centre, four symbolic trees are planted: the fig, the pomegranate, the olive and the palm.
The first two plants, refer to the Old Testament, as they are considered to be historical. The fig tree is located in the south-east and symbolises the Garden of Eden. The pomegranate tree is located in the north-east the garden of the Song of Songs.
For the New Testament, the presence of symbolic plants is notable. The Olive tree, an allegory of Gethsemane and therefore of the future Easter, is located to the north-east, while the Palm tree, in the garden of the Apocalypse, is located to the south-west.
Plants have always represented a message of ascetic rehabilitation, capable of enveloping those who pass through them in a kind of theophany that unfolds along the way.

A green cloister

The Cloister is located next to the wall of the Cathedral’s northern aisle, and therefore in a non-canonical position in relation to the Orthodox layout of the monastic complexes, which places it next to the wall of the church’s southern aisle. The cloister is delimited, to the south, by the north aisle of the church and surrounded, to the east and west, by the conventual buildings with the canonical spaces of the Abbey: the chapter house, the refectory, the dormitory; while to the north, on the sea front, it is not unlikely that the cloister aisle could have remained in some way open to the horizon.

The stories of the capitals

The capitals of the columns in the Cefalù Cloister are characterised by original decorative motifs, emblematic of medieval art. Following its itinerary, made up of the transcendence of the circle inserted in the immanence of the square, we are invited to embark on a spiritual journey of purification that begins where the light sets, symbolically linked to Adam and the Old Testament, and then reaches the New Testament dimension, pervaded by the radiance of the incarnation and the promise. There are decorations with acanthus leaves placed in the initial part of the pair of capitals that proceed both upwards and downwards, following a common ornamental path. In particular, the leaves at the top widen in an arch, forming a crown that supports those at the bottom. The latter open outwards to form a right angle on which the figurative decoration with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic representations rests. The thirty-three pairs of historiated capitals, carved in a single block, show a sculptural apparatus with different iconography: narrative or figurative, with animals and with plants. So, there are scenes from the Bible, decorations with animals, such as monkeys, deer, eagles and fantastic animals (winged griffins), as well as human figures such as the six acrobats or the rulers with roosters.

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The side aisles

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

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

The area of the Sanctuary

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

The mosaics of the presbytery

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The southern portico

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

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

The senses tell Context 1

Worship services

The Virgin Hodegetria

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The king’s mark

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

The chapel of St. Benedict

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

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The longest aisle

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

Under the crosses of the Bema

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The lost chapel

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

Transformations over the centuries

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

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

A space between the visible and the invisible

The Chapel of the Kings

The towers and the western facade

Mosaic decoration

Ecclesia munita

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

The Great Restoration

A tree full of life

The Cathedral over the centuries

A controversial interpretation

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

Squaring the circle

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

The stone bible

The cemetery of kings

The Bible carved in stone

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

Survey of the royal tombs

Interior decorations

A remarkable ceiling

Beyond the harmony of proportions

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

The beginning of the construction site

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

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

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

The balance between architecture and light

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

The rediscovered chapel

The original design

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

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The decorated facade

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

Palermo: the happiest city

The mosaics of the apses

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The cultural substrate through time

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

A Northern population

A palimpsest of history

A new Cathedral

Roger II’s strategic design

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses