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Cefal¨

Cathedral

1131

    The Cathedral of Cefalu’, built to the explicit wish of Ruggero II, represents the first mausoleum of the Norman-Sicilian dynasty of the Hauteville. It also represents the first and most important attempt of artistic – architectonic syncretism between east (Byzantine-Fatimid) and west (Norman-Cluniatic). The big cross-vaults of the presbytery area resemble the first analogous structural experiments of Lessay. Also the apses, although still of Norman- Premonstratensian conception, (the big oculi (oeil-de-boeuf) and counterforts used to sustain the cone-like coverings) underwent some formal adaptations dictated by decorative needs, internal and external: the massive counterforts were shaped like paired columns, while the oculi were walled in the interior so that they did not interrupt the iconographic programme of the mosaics. The plan is of three naves in a Latin cross with projecting transept crowned by the deambulatory. The three apses, of which the first is pre-eminent, are built in a similar manner to the contemporary Norman type. The naves (without a women’s gallery) are divided by rows of columns probably derived from late-Roman buildings. The coverings are made with wooden trusses. The intrados of the covering frame of the central nave is decorated with precious and rare Islamic paintings. The mosaics are among the most precious examples of the Medieval art both for their theological inspiration and refined beauty. In the apse’s basin the powerful image of the Christ Pantokrator stands out with a suggestive stereoscopic effect on the hemispherical surface of the apse. The image of the Madonna surrounded by angels is also serene and majestic. The cycle is completed with characters from the Old and New Testament, the patriarchs and the most well-known saints of the Norman tradition. The pictures show the principal fašade enclosed by the two bell towers: the portico of 1400; particulars of the decorations of the fašade arches with Norman geometry; particulars of the apses and of one modillion.

Vittorio Noto

Bibliography
AA.VV., " Documenti e testimonianze figurative della Basilica Ruggeriana di Cefal¨", Cefal¨ 1982
G. Di Stefano,  "Il Duomo di Cefal¨, biografia di una cattedrale incompiuta.",  Palermo,  1960
V. Noto, "Il Duomo del Re",  Palermo , 2000

Photography
Melo Minnella Palermo