Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Duomo of Palermo, Sicily

There seem to be two types of tours you can take when visiting another country. You can go on the type that go all day and hop you from destination to destination or you can go on the type that has organized hours with free time for you to explore on your own. Go Ahead Tours is the latter which is my preference. As you saw with my last post about Palermo, we had plenty of free time to go where we wanted to go and see what we wanted to see. I'm going to start off with the organized tours that we took while in the area. We visited three different churches and each had it's own special charms and beauty and each is worthy of it's own blog entry for different reasons. Today I'm going to share the Duomo of Palermo.
The outside of the Cathedral is beautifully ornate. There is so much detail that it's easy to get lost in it. But there are many parts of this church and each one has it's own decoration. The carved boat in front was from the Feast of Seven Fishes and was on display almost a half year later for us to enjoy.
 The Cathedral was constructed in the 12th Century by Walter Ophamil but the construction didn't stop there. In fact, construction continued on the different sections of the duomo until the 19th Century. 
 Amazingly enough it all melds together beautifully. The different styles can be seen if you look closely but from a distance, where you can see the whole complex, you really can not tell that items, like this beautiful dome, were added much later.
 The arch connects the duomo on one side to the Archbishops Palace on the left. To me the bell towers help to make this look even more like a sand castle to me! See those statues to the right? I had to take a closer look...
 From a distance you think that they are just normal statues but when you get up close you can see they are a bit unusual. I did a double take when I realized that it was a cherub that was holding up the book for the priest. 
Because of the different styles of construction this Cathedral is my favorite from the outside. The influences from the Arab, Norman, Byzantine, Swabian, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque are tucked here or there all over the complex. It's really fascinating.
 The square bell towers are due to the Norman Arab influence and are, in my opinion, the most striking part of the construction. 
 Every level of the bell towers are exquisitely ornate. To me they are what help to give this church it's wonderful sand castle appearance. 
Because of all the different influences in construction of this church it is considered to be the most eclectic and diverse Cathedral in the world.
 The ornate presentation continues around the side of the building and to the Archbishops entrance. Most people in our tour walked right past this entrance and didn't even seem to notice it. My problem was trying to get a good photo of it without standing in the middle of the street!
 The doorway is very ornate and each doorway is different, yet similar, in design. 
 But the door itself is another matter entirely. I can not begin to fathom just how heavy this metal door is. The pictorials on it are fascinating to study. (click on the small photo to bring up the larger image)
 The Cathedral was constructed on the site where a Mosque use to stand which, according to some historians, stood where an "infidel" church use to stand.  This archway is part of that remnant. There is even a plaque made out of this same material with a bit of the Koran inscribed upon it.
The marble is beautifully carved into ornate designs. This is at the front entrance of the Cathedral and where the style of this church completely changes.  
The inside of this church is rather austere compared to the incredibly ornate exterior! While it has many details to explore it's not nearly as fascinating as all of the different components that make up the exterior of the complex. This fact often leaves visitors to prefer Monreal Abby, which we'll explore next week on the blog, over the Palermo Cathedral. But I found it one of the more remarkable things about this church that makes me remember it so clearly!
Along with the saints that are depicted on the walls trailing down the whole Cathedral are signs of needed restoration work that continues each year. 
 Even inside the church you can see so many different styles of decoration. The Holy Water Font near the entrance is probably the most ornate I have ever seen. But from this vantage you can also see, to the left and right of the font, how different the floor, columns and arches are from each other.
 The domes, which you can see from outside of the church behind the main portico, are of Muslim influence and let the lovely natural light into the Cathedral making it feel lighter, in both color and spirit, to me.
 While most of the details are rather simple in comparison to the exterior, items like the water font and the gates to the Altar were anything but simple. 
 The main dome is flanked, as with most churches, by two naves that are decorated with frescos. These frescos are really the only items that connect the style of this church with the nearby Monreal Abby and Palatine Chapel. It adds a bit more detail and reminds you that you have to look a bit harder here to find these beautiful details.

As with all tours, you always feel like you could spend hours and hours exploring these wonderful places. That is the feeling that will bring you back again. The appetizer size taste we got of the Duomo of Palermo leaves me wanting more time to explore, to find out what is hiding in each section of it's construction and figure out how each influence left it's mark on this beautiful church.

Next week we'll head to Monreal Abby which, in my opinion, is the exact opposite of this Cathedral. To me it was much more beautiful inside than outside! See you then!

As always, if you want to see more of my work you can find it on Instagram or Facebook daily. And please, do, click on the smaller photos to see the larger images for an even better look at this amazing Cathedral.


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