Cefalù Cathedral (Duomo Basilica Cattedrale)
Cefalù with its magnificent cathedral. (ISO 100, f10, 6 sec)
Cefalù Cathedral by night, with mysterious fog.
UNESCO’s World Heritage List
Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale (Italy) - new on the list (2015)
Located on the northern coast of Sicily, Arab-Norman Palermo includes a series of nine civil and religious structures dating from the era of the Norman kingdom of Sicily (1130-1194): two palaces, three churches, a cathedral, a bridge, as well as the cathedrals of Cefalú and Monreale. Collectively, they are an example of a social-cultural syncretism between Western, Islamic and Byzantine cultures on the island which gave rise to new concepts of space, structure and decoration. They also bear testimony to the fruitful coexistence of people of different origins and religions (Muslim, Byzantine, Latin, Jewish, Lombard and French).
- Palazzo dei Normanni (The Norman Palace)
- Cappella Palatina (The Palatine Chapel in the Norman Palace)
- Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti
- Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (also known as the Martorana)
- Church of San Cataldo
- Cathedral of Palermo
- The Zisa Palace (La Zisa)
- The Cuba Palace (La Cuba)
Christ Pantocrator in the Cefalù Cathedral.
According to the late historian John Julius Norwich (author of "The Normans in Sicily") the representation of the Pantocrator is the most sublime of all – "perhaps of Christ in any form in all Christian art". Construction began in 1131, the apse mosaics begun in 1145. After 1172 the church suffered a period of decline; the façade was completed in 1240. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1267 by Rodolphe de Chevriêres, Bishop of Albano.
Restoring Christ Pantocrator
The Madonna flanked by archangels in the Cefalù Cathedral.The Enthroned Virgin in the Monreale Cathedral is vastly more elaborate. In Monreale, the Virgin is flanked by two archangels and two saints, whereas in Cefalù she is flanked by four archangels.
The mosaics above Christ Pantocrator. The baroque decorations start where the mosaics end.
The mosaics are wrapped in baroque ornaments.
Detail of one of the bell-towers. The Cefalù cathedral was never finished, but is still an imposing building.
Cefalù with the Norman Cathedral seen from La rocca di Cefalù.
The bell-towers of the Cefalù Cathedral seen from La rocca di Cefalù.
The Norman Cathedral is dramatically situated in front of the mountain (Rocca di Cefalù). The Cathedral in Cefalù (Duomo Basilica Cattedrale) is one of Sicily's most important buildings from the Norman domination of the island. It was Roger II who started the construction in 1131.
Cefalù with the stunning Norman cathedral. The cathedral was begun by Roger II in 1131, but was still unfinished at the time of his death in 1154. It was not consecrated until 1267. The presbytery is decorated with exquisite mosaics, the best preserved and the earliest of their kind in Sicily.
The term "Normans" (“men from the North”) applied first to the people of Scandinavia in general, and afterwards (Northmannus, Normannus, Normand) it is the name of the Viking colonists from Scandinavia who settled themselves in Gaul and founded Normandy. The Normans’ adopted a new religion (became Christians), a new language, a new system of law and society, new thoughts and feelings on all matters.
From their new home in northern France they set forth on new errands of conquest, chiefly in the British Islands and in southern Italy and Sicily.
If Britain and Sicily were the greatest fields of their enterprise, they were however very far from being the only fields. The same spirit of enterprise which brought the Northmen into Gaul seems to carry the Normans into every corner of the world. The conquest of England was made directly from Normandy, by the reigning duke, in a comparatively short time, while the conquest of Sicily grew out of the earlier and far more gradual conquest of Apulia and Calabria by private men, making their own fortunes and gathering round them followers from all quarters. They fought simply for their own hands, and took what they could by the right of the stronger.
They started with no such claim as Duke William put forth to justify his invasion of England; their only show of legal right was the papal grant of conquests that were already made. The conquest of Apulia, won bit by bit in many years of what we can only call freebooting, was not a national Norman enterprise like the conquest of England, and the settlement to which it led could not be a national Norman settlement in the same sense.
The Sicilian enterprise had in some respects another character. By the time it began the freebooters had grown into princes. Sicily was won by a duke of Apulia and a count of Sicily. Warfare in Sicily brought in higher motives and objects. Althought this was before the Crusades, the strife with the Muslims at once brought in the crusading element. Duke William was undisputed master of England at the end of five years; it took Count Roger thirty years to make himself undisputed master of Sicily. The one claimed an existing kingdom, and obtained full possession of it in a comparatively short time; the other formed for himself a dominion bit by bit, which rose to the rank of a kingdom.
Professor Robert Bartlett describes their exit like this in the excellent BBC documentary “The Normans”: “The Normans simply disappeared. This might sound like failure, but in fact it was the key to their success. They weren’t interested in the purity of their blood. They came, they saw, they conquered. Then they married the locals, learnt the language, and assimilated themselves out of existence.”
Links to more information about the Normans
- The Norman Conquest (Medievalsicily.com)
- Sicilian Peoples: The Normans by L. Mendola and V. Salerno (Bestofsicily.com)
- Tracing the Norman Rulers of Sicily by Louis Inturrisi (The New York Times)
Cefalù certainly was a beautiful city even in the mid 1800's. Here a detail of a painting hanging in the Museo Mandralisca in Cefalù. It was painted by Francesco Tenuta Bevelacqua (1814-1858).
Cefalù Cathedral (detail of the exterior).
Baroque statue (detail of leper) in the Cefalù Cathedral.
Cefalù Cathedral - one of the towers.
The distance between Cefalù and some other cities in Sicily