Palermo Cathedral and surrounds

We head onwards from the market to take a look at some of the main architectural treats that the city has to offer.
Below is the Palazzo dei Normanni or the Royal Palace of Palermo. This was the seat of the Kings of Sicily during the Norman domination and served afterwards as the main seat of power for the subsequent rulers of Sicily.
Today it is the seat of the regional parliament of Sicily.

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The palace stands in what is the highest point of the ancient centre of the city, just above the first Punic settlements, whose remains can still be found in the basement.

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The Porta Nuova, or new New Gate, close to the Norman Palace, was for centuries the most important entrance to Palermo by land.

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The original New Gate, first commissioned in 1583 by the viceroy Marcantonio Colonna to commemorate the victory of Charles V over the Turkish army, was destroyed in 1667.

In 1669 the architect Gaspare Guerciore rebuilt it entirely and decided to put on top of the building a pyramid roof covered with  majolica tiles with the image of an eagle with spread wings. The decoration is dominated by four telamons (male sculptures), depicting the Moors defeated by Charles V.

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Next on our walking tour of the architectural big hitters of the city we come to the epic Cathedral. The original church was erected in 1185 and had lots of additions throughout the centuries.

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Before we head for a closer look, the man has to have his obligatory caffeine fix and also trys his first Sicilian Arancini – a traditional stuffed rice ball filled with a mix of meat or cheese and rice, coated in breadcrumbs and fried.

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The Cathedral is a mishmash of additions, reflecting its chequered history. At one point it become a mosque in the 9th century following the Saracen’s conquest of the city.

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The Cathedral’s architecture is a mix of Norman, Moorish, Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical.

The upper parts of the Cathedral’s 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 work carried out between 1781 to 1801 which was supervised by Ferdinando Fuga

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The Cathedral is connected with two lintelled ogival arcades, arching over the street, that connect the façade to the bell tower in the front, that is also annexed to the Archbishops Palace on the left.

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Below, behind the man, you can see a famous portico created by Domenico and Antonello Gagini.

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Inside the Cathedral is quite austere compared to a lot of the other churches in the city. There are no epic ceiling frescos to be gawked at sadly!

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But what the cathedral may lack in decorative flourishes, it makes up for with the fact that you can climb up a narrow spiral staircase to the roof!

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Here’s the narrow little walkway that you get to inch along in order to get some wonderful views out across the city.

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The grey misty sky is beginning to clear by this point so we can get some great views out and across to the hills in the distance.

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Luckily we both have a head for heights so we’re enjoying our elevated position above the rest of the crowds.

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At one point we had the entire roof to ourselves (except for a few pigeons)

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It is a very peaceful, bird’s eye view of a very bustling, often frustrating city.

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Below we can look down on the Baroque small side cupolas designed by Ferdinando Fuga.

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Next up we’re heading for a very macabre tourist site. Watch this space and prepare to be thrilled and chilled by a most disturbing spectacle . .

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