Today we visited the town of Cefalù Before we entered, the bus stopped on a cliff with a beautiful view of the town. I could see the church rising above the other buildings, its towers tall above the town, the whole building gigantic compared to everything else.
Immediately as we stepped off the bus, the sea air hit us, and I felt refreshed and wonderful. Even walking into the town the view was gorgeous, the sea a bright turquoise, gradually shifting towards a darker, richer blue. The streets of the town are narrow, cars and pedestrians struggling for control of the roads. Little shops and cafes line the streets selling souvenirs, postcards, pasta, fruit, and gelato. Tita (our tour guide) led us to the main square, where the Cefalù Cathedral is located. Grand stairs lead up to the gate, where there is a small courtyard before the main door.
The Cathedral is large and imposing. I really enjoyed how simple the inside was, with bare, flat walls, the main focus being the ornate sanctuary at the head of the church. The Pantocrator presided above the alter, surrounded with gold, and underneath were depictions of archangels and saints. As Jaymie told us in her presentation before dinner tonight, the inscription with the Pantocrator includes the phrase "light of the world." This enforces the idea that God is light, and the windows help to bring light into the church. The 42 window panes were a recent addition, started in 1985, created by the artist Michele Canzoneri, who tried to capture the stories of the bible in a more modern fashion.
The columns of Cefalù line the nave, the capitals depicting humans, animals, and plants. One in particular is important -- the column to the right of the entrance is of a different marble, Cipolini, signifying that there was an archbishop at Cefalù.
Roger II built Cefalù because that is where his ship landed, and he made a promise while out at sea that if he landed safely he would commemorate it with a church. He began the project in 1131 and hoped to be buried there, but unfortunately the plans were too grand to be finished in time. He died before Cefalù was completed; construction resumed under Frederick, and was finished in the mid-1200s. There were additions and reconstructions to the church during its existence. Baroque art was added through sculptures, and the mosaic floors were replaced with stone. The central wooden beam of the church ceiling has Kufic script on it, although most has faded. There are influences from many different cultures in the church, and the influences are still continuing, as seen with the windows.
We continued our day with a walk down to the sea, which offered a gorgeous view. We all scattered for lunch, before reconvening in the main square to journey back to the hotel. We had a free afternoon before presentations from Evelyn and Jaymie, who informed us about Monreale and Cefalù It was a lovely end to a lovely day!