This is a very intertestingand historical cathedral with different styles of architecture, including from Aragon, Spain (the portico of 3 arches), due to a long history of additions, alterations and restorations, the last of which occurred in the 18th century.
When I visited it, during Christmas, there were representations of a Presepe (Belen in Spanish), or Nativity scene from several countries of the world.
I also noticed a Meridiana on the floor, running precisely N/S. The ends of the line mark the positions as at the summer and winter solstices; signs of the zodiac show the various other dates throughout the year.
There are Kings and notable people buried in this cathedral.
Thus cathedral and the Cappella Palatina are, without doubt, the two most interesting tourist's attraction ins Palermo.
Monreale Cathedral was built from 1174 to 1185. It was commissioned by William II (1154-89), the Norman ruler of Sicily, who wished to demonstrate the magnificence of his kingdom and outdo the splendid Palatine Chapel built by his grandfather, Roger II. The project employed both Sicilian and Byzantine craftsmen, resulting in a magnificent fusion of eastern and western influences.
I arrived late in Palermo, just the time to unload the Vespa at the hotel and sneak away in the well known traffic of the city.
Here I had to stop. The sunset was lightening the Cathedral in such a dramatic way!
And now the classic info (2005 updated) about "Santa Maria Assunta" the Cathedral of Palermo.
During the Norman domination, the archbishop of Palermo started the construction of a splendid cathedral to replace the Muslim mosque with a Christian church.
This church is a lesson in Palermitan eclecticism -- originally Norman (1182), then Catalan Gothic (14th-15th century), then fitted out with a baroque and neoclassical interior (18th century). Its turrets, towers, dome, and arches come together in the kind of meeting of diverse elements that King Roger II (1095-1154), whose tomb is inside along with that of Frederick II, fostered during his reign. The back of the apse is gracefully decorated with interlacing Arab arches inlaid with limestone and black volcanic tufa.
COST: Church free, crypt EUR1. OPEN: Church 7-7, crypt Mon.-Sat. 9-5.
The layers of Palermo's history are written large on Palermo's cathedral. Set in the Capo quarter, its Norman origins are evident in its overall appearance, but years of Spanish rule are shown by the peculiarly Catalan style of the 15th century portico. A classical dome was added in the 18th century. The overall effect is grand if somewhat disjointed - all very typical of the changes and additions you'll find in buildings of great age anywhere. What lifts Palermo's cathedral into out of the ordinary run of such structures is the magnificent Arab-inspired decoration on the external fabric of the building - a truly extraordinary display of the geometric patterns and crenellations so typical of Arab architecture of the time.
The interior is rather less interesting. Whatever original decoration there was has disappeared under the acres of white marble that were installed in the 18th century. Just one small 12th century mosaic gem sits above the main entrance - a Madonna and child - the cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. Apart from its huge size, some royal tombs and a treasury full of the usual ecclesiastical bric-a-brac you find in cathedral treasuries everywhere and a few fine royal jewels, there's not much else to impress, though a marble-inlaid meridian featuring the signs of the zodiac on the floor is an interesting curiosity.
The square outside is lined with palazzos, many of which were badly damaged in the bombing raids of 1943. All is restored now and the piazza is a handsome approach to the cathedral.
The Cathedral of Palermo is an architectural complex. It is characterized by the presence of different styles, due to a long history of additions, alterations and restorations, the last of which occurred in the 18th century.
The right side has outstretching turrets and a wide portico (the current entrance) in Gothic-Catalan style, with three arcades, erected around 1465 and openening to the square. The first column on the left belonged to the original basilica and the subsequent mosque, as testified by the Qur'an verse carved on it.
The Cattedrale di Palermo is another church that was constructed in the general effort to wipe out any trace of Muslim influence in Catholic countries. It was begun in 1185 on the site of an earlier basilica that the Saracens had converted into a Mosque. The church has undergone repeated "restorations", the last of which was done in 1781, which were actually thinly veiled attempts to change the very essence of the building. The right hand side of the Cathedral, which is the entrance, is in Catalan Gothic form and dates from about 1465. The earliest part of the Cathedral is actually the apse, which dates from the 1100s. The south-west side dates from the 14th and 15th centuries, which the copula is a work of the Florentine Fuga, who undertook the 18th century "renovations". Inside, the Cathedral is in a Latin cross form with three naves. The towers date from Norman times (there are four of them) and are near the copula (although, clearly, unrelated to it).
In all, this Cathedral is too complex to describe clearly in a such a small space, largely because it is not a cohesive, single effort but represents the changing political fortunes of the island and the various influences on its culture and art. More than anything, however, visiting the Cathedral is the only means of properly appreciating just how large and spectacular it is, particularly if you go early and are one of the few people there.
The cathedral is known officially as "Santa Maria Assunta" or Saint Mary of the Assumption. It was built in 1184 by the Norman king William II in the place of a Muslim mosque and you can see a little of the Moorish style as an influence in the decorations of the exterior (see additional photo). It has undergone major changes over the years, with renovations and additions, such as the cupola constructed in 1785. This dome contrasts (some say clashes) with the Norman Arab arches and the exterior's intended effect. Nevertheless we found it an imposing building and were disappointed to find that it was closed for “special cleaning” – I hope the new clean interior is worthy of this extra effort, but we won’t be there to see it unfortunately.
The cathedral is set back from the road (Corso Vittorio Emanuele) and separated from it by attractive gardens which make a peaceful spot in which to linger and enjoy the exterior of this striking building.
Built in 1184 by the Norman king William II in the place of a Muslim mosque, the cathedral has undergone several renovations over the centuries, which have resulted in its current Neo-Classical style.
The fourteenth-century door and the Gothic-Catalan style portico are worthy of note. The treasures that are kept inside, including some precious objects and embroidery found in the tombs of the Kings and emperors must be seen.
The cathedral is spectacular, started under the period of Norman rule in 1185 as a chapel built on the site of a former mosque, the capella been added to in different centuries and has been built around and renewed to become today's giant cathedral (parts of the Norman structure remain) , and the and the crypt, treasury and tombs (for which there is a nominal entrance charge) reflect these various styles over the centuries.
The square is veey pleasant with plenty of seating also, Palermo is another place where you are constantly on the hoof !
During the Norman domination, in 1184 the archbishop of Palermo Walter Offamilio started the construction of a splendid cathedral to replace the Muslim mosque with a Christian church.
Over the centuries the additions and restorations modified the original building: the most radical change was made by Ferdinando Fuga in 1771 and in 1809. He was an architect from Florence and gave to the interior of the church a neoclassical aspect.
Visiting the Cathedral it is important to observe:
the XIV century portal with bronze doors,
the long right side is decorated with a scenic portico in Catalan-Gothic style from the XV century, under which there is a highly decorated portal by Antonio Gambarra in 1426,
the apses kept their original form of the XII century.
The Cathedral contains the Royal and Imperial tombs. Among the people buried there are Roger II, Henry VI of Hohenstaufen, Costance de Hauteville, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen. Among the numerous chapels there is Santa Rosalia's, where in a silver urn done in 1631, there are kept the ashes of the patron Saint of Palermo.
There is lastly fine treasure, comprising precious objects and pieces of embroidery found in Royal and Imperial tombs, holy vestments, chalices, ostensories.
The cathedral has been much modified and "improved" over the centuries starting from the 12C.The corner towers have tiny minarets typical of the adoption by the Normans of local influences. They also built a campanile (across the street, partly supported by heavy arches. The W facade (seen in our intro) is 15C Gothic.The Spanish added Baroque throughout the interior and the dome.There are so many sights that we made a Travelog of the inside and porch.
The Palermo Cathedral was built in the place of an ancient muslim mosque in 1184 by order of a norman King called William II.
The Cathedral suffered several renovations through the centuries, thus resulting in it's neo-classical style
The Cathedral was founded in 1185, but construction wasn't finished for centuries. It's set back from Corso Vittorio Emanuele with its own small gardens. It's an odd but spectacular sight; a very striking building with contrasting architectural styles. The eastern end of the exterior is twelfth-century original. The dome was added in the late eighteenth-century. It's much more interesting from the outside - the interior was "modernized" at the same time as the dome was added, and it's somewhat cold and lacking in the character of the other Palermitan churches. Inside, you can see a number of royal tombs such as that of Roger II, and can also gain access to the treasury and crypt (Mon - Sat 9:30am - 5:30pm, 1 euro 50).
Mon - Sat - 7am - 7pm
Sun - 8am - 1:30pm and 4pm - 7 pm
The cathedral was first begun in the 12th century. Originally designed as a Byzantine structure that was later renovated as a Mosque to provide a place of worship for the Islamic influence on this island. Later with Christian influence and construction that spanned hundreds of years the cathedral took shape as an enormously impressive, and aesthetically intriguing structure. The Gothic facade (which took more than 200 years to complete) is awesome !
This building is build in Normandic Arabic style. It was build in the 12th century.
The building is very impressive and you must see it when you visit Palermo.
Inside you can see the relic of Saint Rosalia, the patron of the city and some graves of Normandic kings.