Cefalù Cathedral, or Duomo di Cefalù, is a beautiful church built in Norman architectural style in Cefalù, dominating the skyline of the medieval town with its fortress-like appearance.
The Cathedral of Cefalù was built by Roger II of Altavilla, King of Sicily, Puglia and Calabria, in the year 1131. According to the legend, the king, traveling by ship from Salerno to Palermo, came across a storm, and vowed to build a church there, after he landed safe on the city’s beach.
The work began with the laying of the foundation stone on Sunday, June 7, the day of Pentecost, in the year 1131. The king was present at the ceremony, along with the Archbishop of Messina Ugone and the Sicilian nobility.
In 1145, the church was established as the mausoleum of the royal family of Altavilla, but the will of Roger II was never fulfilled, because he died suddenly on February 28, 1154, in Palermo, and was buried in the crypt of the Cathedral of Palermo, where he is still resting.
At the death of Roger II, only the presbytery area of the church had been completed, and in the following years, the interest moved to the building of the new Cathedral of Monreale, and the Rogerian project in Cefalù was abandoned for a while.
The church was consecrated on April 10, 1267, by Cardinal Rodolfo, Bishop of Albano.
The original project of the cathedral involved a very complex and imposing building, that remained in many parts unfinished, so the current construction presents some anomalies and discontinuities.
The building was designed in the Romanesque architecture, imported into Sicily by the Normans, but was finished by local craftsmen according to the demands of Islamic architecture and conditioned by the Byzantine liturgical requirements.
The interior of the Cathedral has a Latin cross plan, with three naves separated by a row of arches supported by 16 monolithic columns surmounted by capitals embellished with sculptures.
The naves have a wooden roof, painted with busts, fantastic animals and decorative motifs, the work of Arab craftsmen. A triumphal arch flanked by columns surmounted by capitals in Arabic style, gives access to the transept. The presbytery is beautifully decorated with a splendid mosaic.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Cathedral of Cefalù is about 900 meters away or a 12 minutes walk from the Cefalù Train Station and about 400 meters away from the entrance to the historical center of the city. If you need a map to find it, use the one below.