Palermo Cathedral
the Portico and the Floor

The southern portico

On the southern façade of the Cathedral, there is an old access to the church, through the large external floor, adjacent to it. In a little-known passage of the Latin text, the chronicles report the presence of an entrance archway on the southern façade, which existed before the present one since the times of the first cathedral, enlarged by the Great Count Roger , then rebuilt or more probably restored by Bishop Gualtiero in 1185 and finally restored again in 1296, when Frederick II of Aragon donated the tiles of the Kingdom of Sicily.

Current Portico
Designed by Antonio Gambara in 1429, the portico on the southern elevation of the Cathedral was also built using reused materials. It is contained between two lateral pylons with a triple order in a repeated pattern. Entrance is gained through three pointed arches resting on reused columns with capitals decorated with plant motifs. The three arches are decorated with a twisted frame. Particularly noteworthy is the depiction of the tree of life, dating back to approximately the 13th century. This was discovered during a recent restoration and is located between the three arches and the decorative part of the frieze. The latter, however, is lined with a procession of saints, interspersed with the coats of arms of the Kingdom of Sicily, the Senate of Palermo and Palermo Cathedral. From the left, there are the Holy Virgins first, followed by the prophets, the apostles, the Doctors of the Church and, finally, the Evangelists. All the characters appear to be parading in a tight procession proclaiming and witnessing the word of God. In the triangular space of the tympanum, in the centre, God the Father is dressed in his Papal robes, while the Annunciation is depicted on the sides: the Heralding Angel on the left and the Virgin Mary on the right. The entire narrative is surrounded by flamboyant spiral motifs.

The present portico , in Catalan Gothic style , is the work of Magister Marammae Antonio Gambara, commissioned by the Bishop of the time, Ubertino De Marinis , in 1429.
Although it is true that the construction of the southern portico of the Cathedral dates back to 1429, the studies carried out during the last restorations have confirmed what is reported in the chronicles that, before the present one, there was already another portico on the same side of the Cathedral. It seems plausible, therefore, that in order to carry out his valuable work, according to the style of the time, defined as the “tocco del piano” (touch of the floor), Gambara used and reassembled, in a valuable fusion, some elements of artistic workmanship , extraneous to the general composition of the portico which, when reused, show their origin from the recovery of the previous structure.

The Cathedral over the centuries

A mixture of styles pervades the floor decorations

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

A controversial interpretation

Squaring the circle

The senses tell Context 1

Mosaic decoration

Interior decorations

The southern portico

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

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

A tree full of life

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

The Great Restoration

The mosaics of the presbytery

The area of the Sanctuary

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

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

The balance between architecture and light

The stone bible

The beginning of the construction site

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

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

Palermo: the happiest city

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

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

The original design

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

The longest aisle

Worship services

The chapel of St. Benedict

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

The towers and the western facade

The Virgin Hodegetria

A remarkable ceiling

The lost chapel

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

Under the crosses of the Bema

The rediscovered chapel

A Northern population

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The side aisles

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

Ecclesia munita

The decorated facade

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

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

A space between the visible and the invisible

Survey of the royal tombs

The cemetery of kings

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

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

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

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

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

A new Cathedral

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The Chapel of the Kings

The cultural substrate through time

A palimpsest of history

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

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

The Bible carved in stone

The mosaics of the apses

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

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

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

The king’s mark

Roger II’s strategic design

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The Gualtiero Cathedral

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

Transformations over the centuries