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Palermo Cathedral
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Visiting Palermo Cathedral

4.5 (100%) 185 votes

Palermo Cathedral is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Palermo, located in Palermo, Sicily, southern Italy. It is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

A wonderful day at Palermo Cathedral

A wonderful day at Palermo Cathedral

1. Learn The History

1. Learn The History

The church was erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil (or Walter of the Mill), the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and King William II's minister, on the area of an earlier Byzantine basilica. By all accounts this 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. Ophamil is buried in a sarcophagus in the church's crypt. The medieval edifice had a basilica plan with three apses, of which only some minor architectural elements survive today. The upper orders of the corner towers were built between the 14th and the 15th centuries, while in the early Renaissance period the southern porch was added. The present neoclassical appearance dates from the work carried out over the two decades 1781 to 1801, and supervised by Ferdinando Fuga. During this period the great retable by Gagini, decorated with statues, friezes and reliefs, was destroyed and the sculptures moved to different parts of the basilica. Also by Fuga are the great dome emerging from the main body of the building, and the smaller domes covering the aisles' ceilings. It's a good thing to understand the history before you do Palermo Cathedral tour.

2. Architectural Evolution

2. Architectural Evolution

The cathedral of Palermo underwent major changes in the following centuries. 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. However, modern renovations and additions, such as the 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. Among the Baroque features is Saint Rosalie's Chapel, commemorating Palermo's patron saint, possibly a Norman maiden, who repudiated the worldly life in favour of a hermit's existence in the caves of Mount Pellegrino overlooking the city. A grand festival is celebrated in her memory in mid-July. The meridian line in the floor is also a recent addition. It's a good thing to understand the architecture evolution before you do Palermo Cathedral tour.

3.  God is in the details

3. God is in the details

A few pieces of the Paleo-Christian, Byzantine and Arab structures were incorporated into the present cathedral. Several, though not very imposing, are worthy of note. The left-most pillar supporting the Gothic portico bears an inscription from the Koran. The pillars were probably incorporated into the Great Mosque of Bal'harm (as the Arabs called this city) before the arrival of the Normans (1071). as we've noted, the portico itself is a later addition. Another interesting detail is the Byzantine icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God) in a niche above the Gothic archway beneath the portico. This may have been part of the medieval Byzantine church which became the great mosque, though its origin is disputed. It would have been covered or removed when the church was converted to a mosque during the ninth century, then re-incorporated into the Norman church. However, it may well have been created specifically for the Norman church by some of the same Greek (Orthodox) artists who designed the mosaic icons elsewhere in and around Palermo long after the Great Schism of 1054. It's a good thing to understand how the building relates with Christian and Islamic archicture before you do Palermo Cathedral tour.

Palermo Cathedral Tips and Tricks

How to Get Tickets?

The Cathedral is open on Monday - Friday at 7AM - 7PM and Saturday - Sunday have 2 sessions, which are at 8AM - 1PM and 4PM - 7PM. The Area Monumentale (treasury, crypt, royal tombs, rooftop) are open on Monday - Friday at 9AM - 5:30PM and Saturday, Sunday, holidays at 10AM - 5PM. The price for Palermo Cathedral tickets is free, to treasury, crypt, royal graves €8 for adults and €4 for chidren of 11 - 17 years old (discounts/tickets for each area available).

How To Get Around?

You can do Palermo Cathedral tour by walking. Enjoy the moment and take your time to explore the curch.

What Should I Wear?

Women should not wear anything revealing, shoulders should be covered. No shorts should be worn and men should wear shirts

Palermo Cathedral Facts

Best Time to Visit

The busiest month for tourism in Palermo, Italy is April, followed by May and February. Prices for hotels and flights will be most expensive during these months, though you can save if you purchase well in advance. Tourists are unlikely to visit Palermo in November.



Will I Need a Guide?

You don't need a guide to do Palermo Cathedral tour, you can find everything you need on this site.

How To Get There?

On foot, or To get to Palermo Cathedral by bus: Buses 309, 339 and 389 (from Monreale) and buses 104 and 105, rented car.

Additional Info

Combined tickets are available and would be better if you plan to see everything here.