A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Blue On Gold

Cefalù's cathedral is one of the most impressive Norman churches in Sicily and I liked it very much. My first sudden view of it - from the train window just before entering Cefalù station - made me catch my breath. It commands a slightly elevated position overlooking the huddled terracotta roofs of Cefalù's old quarter. Behind it rears the sheer-sided limestone cliff of La Rocca. Its situation is quite superb.

Building began in 1131 (the Normans conquered Sicily in 1091) after Roger II, King of Sicily, vowed to God he would build a cathedral here - having survived a severe storm and been washed up on Cefalù's beach. The photo above shows the cathedral's western façade with its triple-arched 15th century portico set between two square towers, each surmounted by a small spire. The tree in front of the cathedral is a date palm. This is the interior with its pink granite columns and astonishing Byzantine mosaics:

Master craftsmen from Constantinople created these wonderful blue and gold and red and green mosaics. They are exceptionally fine and are considered the best examples of Byzantine mosaic work in all Italy. The main image is of Jesus Christ as Pantocrator, meaning 'Almighty' or 'All-Powerful Ruler'. Christ's right hand is raised in benediction, and in his left he holds a Bible open at this verse from St John's Gospel (which you can read in both Greek and Latin): I am the light of the world. Who follows me will not wander in darkness but will have the light of life. Beneath Christ is the Virgin Mary flanked by four archangels, and further below are the apostles and the evangelists. Christ as Pantocrator is the very first representation we have of Christ in early Christianity, and it's an iconic image of the Eastern Orthodox church:


ksam said...

Beautiful pics. Makes me want to crawl/climb a scaffold to really get a close look at the mosaics.

The Solitary Walker said...

I did take some more close-up pix of the mosaics, but unfortunately they didn't turn out too well...