Cathedral (Santa Maria la Nuovo)

begun 1174


The Normans conquered Sicily from about 1061 to 1091. This cathedral was built at the order of William II. Like the mixture of cultures in Sicily itself, this church, sometimes called "Sicilian Romanesque," also reflects varied influences: Norman (the style of the most recent conqueror), Byzantine, and Islamic. (See also the Cefalù Cathedral.) While the front of the church (not pictured) is more restrained with two towers and an arched portico, the three apses at the end of the Latin-cross plan are a riot of design. Pointed arches from the Islamic tradition, Norman interlaced pointed arches in patterns, and Byzantine polychrome mosaic designs decorate the surfaces. The interior walls of the Cathedral are totally decorated with mosaics.

The three apses

 

The main portal

The door jambs are decorated in vertical bands with carving, mosaic friezes, and zig-zag ornament. The whole is framed with a marble design of acanthus leaves. The door consists of 42 panels, signed by Bonanno of Pisa (who designed doors at Pisa 6 years earlier), and dated (1186). The panels depict events from the Old and New Testament.



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