Palermo Cathedral
The great Presbytery and the apses

Transformations over the centuries

In the following centuries, the Cathedral did not undergo any particular remodelling or substantial changes. In the 14th century, the western façade was completed and the four towers were raised, the side chapels were added and some liturgical spaces were transformed or enlarged.In the 15th and 16th centuries, most of the work was focused on the embellishment of the interior with the decoration of new chapels and the inclusion of valuable sculptures. Externally, Antonio Gambara was commissioned to construct a new doorway and a portico on the southern front. In 1509, Antonello Gagini was entrusted with the task of creating the imposing marble tribune in the area of the Sanctuary. The tribune was intended to embellish the entire central apse basin, with decorated panels facing the Antititulo. At the same time the sacristy area was enlarged, with a new section added towards the east.
After hundreds of years, the sacred building was showing signs of aging, especially due to structural failures in the building, even though it had been adorned and cared for by the Maramma of the Cathedral. At the end of the 18th century, these works led to the launching of a general renovation programme, profoundly transforming the Cathedral in accordance with the neoclassical style of the time, which gave it its current composition. The project was entrusted to the royal architect Ferdinando Fuga , but its operational execution was followed by the architects Carlo Chenchi and Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia from Palermo.
The cathedral was thus profoundly transformed inside, becoming a Latin cross shaped church with the creation of a large transept with a large dome in the centre, which now heavily characterises its exterior appearance. The most evident transformation ivolved that of the presbyteral area, where the original ‘ Titulo ‘ and ‘ Antititulo ‘ of the Norman basilica were removed, with the construction of the chapels of the Blessed Sacrament and of Santa Rosalia ,

Chapel of Saint Rosalia
The Chapel of Saint Rosalia, in the southern apse of the Cathedral, houses the remains of Saint Rosalia, the Patron Saint of Palermo. Born in Palermo in 1130 to a wealthy family, Rosalia lived in her father’s villa as a child, located in what is now the Olivella district. Educated at the Court, she also became the Queen’s lady-in-waiting, according to tradition. Unwilling to accept Count Baldwin’s hand in marriage, she left her comforts and embraced the faith at the age of 15. She lived in a cave in Santo Stefano Quisquina for twelve years as a recluse, devoting herself solely to prayer and the love of God. Upon her return to Palermo, she spent the rest of her days in another cave on Monte Pellegrino, where she died in 1170 at the age of forty. She is remembered on the 4th of September, the day of her death, and on the 15th of July, the day her relics were found. Her relics, found in 1624, saved Palermo from the plague, leading to Rosalia becoming the city’s Patron Saint. In the chapel, through the brass gate and behind the silver altar, the very precious silver reliquary urn can be found. Commissioned by the Senate of Palermo to carry the relics of the city’s new Patron Saint in procession, it was crafted between 1631 and 1637 by silversmiths Giuseppe Oliveri, Francesco Ruvolo, Giancola Viviano and Matteo Lo Castro, in collaboration with Michele Farruggia and Francesco Roccuzzo and designed by Mariano Smiriglio. It is one of the finest examples of Baroque metalwork. The piece is structured on three levels: at the bottom is the platform, decorated in embossed silver with the four cherubs at the corners holding the urn containing the Saint’s relics. The longitudinal urn contains depictions of moments from the Saint’s life. The lid contains six panels that tell the story of Rosalia, from her arrival at Monte Pellegrino through to her death. The urn is topped with the statue of Saint Rosalia. On either side are two high reliefs by Valerio Villareale, depicting Saint Rosalia calling on Christ for deliverance from the plague and the Entrance of the glorious relics of Saint Rosalia into Palermo. According to sources, Jesuit Father Giordano Cascini, as well as writing the hagiography of the Saint, ‘De vita et inventione S. Rosaliae’, provided the themes and scenes for the sumptuous ‘vara’.
the major extension of the large choir chapel leading up to the main apse , disrupting the original spatial layout of the Antititulo area.

The original design

A polysemy of high-level artistic forms and content

Squaring the circle

Mosaic decoration

The mosaics of the presbytery

The towers facing the facade used as bell towers

Survey of the royal tombs

The transformations of the hall through the centuries

The dialogue between the architectures of the monumental complex

The longest aisle

The chapel of san Castrense: an important renaissance work

A remarkable ceiling

A new Cathedral

The southern portico

The Gualtiero Cathedral

The cemetery of kings

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

The construction of Monreale Cathedral: between myth and history

The liturgical spaces of the protesis and the diaconicon

The medieval city amidst monasticism and feudal aristocracy

The Virgin Hodegetria

Roger II’s strategic design

Cefalù: settlement evidence through time

The chystro: a place between earth and sky

The balance between architecture and light

The Cathedral over the centuries

The chorus: beating heart of the cathedral

Beyond the harmony of proportions

The Kings’ Cathedrals

The towers and the western facade

The lost chapel

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

Transformations over the centuries

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

The decorated facade

Roger II of hauteville: a sovereign protected by God

Interior decorations

The king’s mark

Porphyry sarcophagi: royalty and power

A chapel by an unknown designer based on repeated symmetries

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

The stone bible

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

The beginning of the construction site

The Bible carved in stone

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

Under the crosses of the Bema

Norman religious architecture with islamic influences in Sicily

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

Ecclesia munita

The Great Restoration

Palermo: the happiest city

From the Mosque to the Cathedral

A space between the visible and the invisible

The rediscovered chapel

Artistic elements in Peter’s ship

The senses tell Context 1

The mosaics of the apses

The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The Great Presbytery: a unique space for the cathedral

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

Worship services

The chapel of St. Benedict

The area of the Sanctuary

A Northern population

Gardens and architecture as a backdrop to the city of Palermo

The side aisles

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

Two initially similar towers, varied over time

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

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

A tree full of life

A palimpsest of history

A cloister of accentuated stylistic variety

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

Layers of different cultures decorate the external apses

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

Characteristics of religious architecture in the romanesque period

A controversial interpretation

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

The cultural substrate through time

The Chapel of the Kings