Palermo Cathedral - Table of Contents

South elevation - Palermo Cathedral/Duomo
AKA: "Santa Maria Assunta" or Saint Mary of the Assumption
Palermo, Sicily, Italy

Built:
1185 in Norman Romanesque style
Site history: Built in 1184 by the Normans as a re-converted Christian church on the site of a Muslim Mosque that was previously built over a Christian basilica.  
The earlier church was founded by Pope Gregory I and was later turned into a mosque by the Saracens after their conquest of the city in the 9th century.
Styles:
1185 - Norman Romanesque
Additions:
13th-14th centuries - Gothic exterior
Late 15th century - Spanish Renaissance
1771 - Neoclassical
Distinction:
Most kings of Sicily (including the first, Roger II) were  crowned in Palermo's cathedral, Sicily's largest cathedral.

2015 granted status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

February 2020 photos

In 1184, during Sicily's Norman period, Archbishop of Palermo Gualtiero Offamiglio founded the cathedral on the site of a Muslim mosque, which had itself been built over an early Christian basilica.

The archbishop's main aim was to surpass the glory of the magnificent cathedral of nearby Monreale, and the Palermo Duomo became an architectural battleground for "The Battle of the Two Cathedrals." For most visitors, Monreale Duomo remains the winner, but Palermo's cathedral is still well worth a
visit.15th century Spanish architecture

Many additions were made to the original Norman structure over the years. The exterior was "Gothicized" in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the Spaniards made their mark in the 15th century.

But if anyone could be called the culprit for the cathedral's playground of styles, it is the Neapolitan architect Ferdinando Fuga, who went with the mood of his day and in 1771 and 1809 gave both the exterior and the interior of the Duomo a sweeping Neoclassical style.

The only section that the restorers didn't touch were the apses, which still retain their impressive Geometric [
Norman ] decoration.
- Sacred Destinations: Palermo Cathedral  (online May 2020)






South elevation
The Baroque cupola changes the Norman Romanesque geometric character of the building     ...      Cathedral details below, starting at the left:

Western towers


Western towers
Left:  Archbishop's Palace (now a museum)  and bell tower/campanile   ... 
Middle:   Two 
arcades over the street connect the western facade of the cathedral, at the right, to the bell tower , at the left   ...   
Right
: One of two towers  at the corners of the cathedral's western facade and original main entrance
   ...  
Two details below:


Western towers
Detail #1 - Bell tower/campanile at left   ...   Two arcades   ...   Cathedral corner tower  built between the 14th and the 15th centuries



Western towers
Detail #2 - Bell tower/campanile   ...   Belfries and arcades    ...    Turrets with conical roof





Main entrance - Portico

Subtle Catalonian Gothic touches such as the portico, with its
gargoyles - in the form of angels rather than grotesques - complement the original styles. Designed by Antonino Gambara, it was added in 1453.


Main entrance
- Portico
South elevation current main entrance  portico  ...    
C. 1465  portico flanked by towers   ...   Romanesque pediment over Gothic arches



Main entrance - Portico
Gargoyles between upper Norman Romanesque style tympanum   and lower Norman Romanesque style frieze



Main entrance - Portico
Norman Romanesque style battlement   ...      Norman Romanesque style bas-relief  tympanum


Main entrance - Portico
Gothic  gargoyle




Main entrance - Portico
Gothic  gargoyle



Main entrance - Portico
Gothic  gargoyle



Main entrance - Portico
Right tower   ...   Note Gothic gargoyles   ...   Two details below:



Main entrance - Portico
At left: Gothic  gargoyle    ...    Tower 



Main entrance - Portico
Tower



Main entrance - Portico
  Blending of Norman Romanesque rope molding on Gothic pointed arches




Main entrance - Portico
  Blending of Norman Romanesque  rope molding on Gothic pointed arches



Main entrance - Portico
Three foliated  finials



Main entrance - Portico
 The Byzantine mosaic portraying the Mother of God is from the 13th(?) century   ...   Three details below:


Main entrance - Portico
  Mother of God  detail



Main entrance - Portico
Mother of God  detail



Main entrance - Portico
 Mother of God  detail



Main entrance -
Portico
  Blending of Norman Romanesque  moldings on Gothic pointed arches


Main entrance - Portico
  Blending of Norman Romanesque  moldings on Gothic pointed arches   ...   Three more details below:


Main entrance - Portico
Norman Romanesque detail



Main entrance - Portico
Norman Romanesque detail   ...   Rope molding   ...    Chevron molding



Main entrance - Portico
Norman Romanesque detail






Main entrance - Portico   at left ...     Top:  Norman Romanesque  battlement   ...   Later added  Baroque windows with  engaged cupolas


Baroque window with finial atop  engaged cupola



The 1785  Baroque cupola changes the Norman Romanesque geometric character of the building     ...   Because the Catholic Church came to regard the Baroque as the epitome of artistic expression and the glorification of God, the Baroque style flourished.  Thanks to the patronage of the  Church, promoted by generations of popes, cardinals, priests, missionaries and worshipers, the style spread around the world.   ...   Note two corner towers  that mirror the two at the opposite end of the building   



"... large 
cupola constructed in 1785, severely altered its appearance. This dome, and the extensive Baroque reconstruction of the interior, completely defaced the beautiful Norman Arab arches and lines of the inside of the church and corrupted the exterior's aesthetic lines." - Best of Sicily (online July 2020)   ...
Finial atop 
lantern atop cupola atop drum    ...   Two details below:


Finial atop  lantern atop cupola



Cupola  drum    ...   Drum features Corinthian(?) pilasters and Baroque window surrounds   ...   Norman Romanesque   battlement



Blind arcade   ...  
Blending of Norman Romanesque  moldings on Gothic pointed arches   ...   Chevron moldings



Battlement   ...    Blind arcade   ...     Belfry above clock   ...   Two Norman Arab style towers with some Gothic features



Belfry     ...    Conical roof  with finial    ...     4 pinnacles



Two twisted columns  with pointed Gothic arches



Blind arcades   ...   Oculus window






Battlement   ...  Decorated friezes   ...   Corbel table






Photos and their arrangement 2020 Chuck LaChiusa
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