Palermo Cathedral, the city's historic and artistic heritage

You can't stay in the city without visiting this beautiful cathedral, which has become the symbol of Palermo. A place of worship for the faithful and witness to historic events, it is now one of the city's main tourist attractions. Whether you are a believer or not, a visit inside the cathedral is a must to admire its beauty and discover the history of Palermo.

Cathedral of Palermo

- © Yury Dmitrienko / Shutterstock

A little history

An important religious building located in the city's historic centre, Palermo Cathedral has witnessed all the historical events that have taken place since its existence. Its construction dates back to the twelfth century by Archbishop Gualtiero Offamilio, but in reality the cathedral was the third religious building to be constructed on the same site: as early as the fourth century, there was an ancient basilica destroyed by the Vandals and rebuilt by Bishop Vittore in 604. Later, under Arab domination in the 9th century, it was transformed into a mosque: a page from the Koran inside bears witness to this.

Cathedral of Palermo

- © Dariya92300 / Shutterstock

The cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is part of the Arab-Norman itinerary, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its architectural style is a blend of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. Today, it is a major tourist attraction and an important centre of worship for the faithful.

The interior of the cathedral

The cathedral has a Latin cross floor plan with three naves divided by pillars. It houses numerous works of art, including the Blessed Sacrament chapel, the Crucifix altar and the chapel of Saint Rosalia, patron saint of the city of Palermo, whose relics are preserved in a precious silver urn. There are also two fonts, a baptismal font and the crown and jewels of Constance of Aragon, which together with other sacred objects make up the cathedral's treasury.

Chapelle Santa Rosalia, Palerme

- © simona flamigni / Shutterstock

On the floor of the nave, which runs obliquely through it, is a sundial, an instrument built by the astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi to enable citizens to measure time. Construction was completed in 1801, as can be seen from the engraving on the white marble plaque at the foot of the gnomon, a hole in the dome through which light enters and strikes the sundial directly.

💡 Good to know

Every day at noon, the sun's rays pass through the hole and move along the line that will determine the different months of the year by representing the signs of the zodiac.

SIgne du zodiaque, sol de la nef de la cathédrale, Palerme

- © Furiarossa / Shutterstock

You should also visit the royal tombs, which bear witness to Sicily's history and past. Among the most important, that of the first king of Sicily, Roger II, is also the oldest. There is also the temple-shaped sarcophagus of King Henry VI and that of Empress Constance of Altavilla, his wife and the parents of Frederick II. Another remarkable sarcophagus is the white marble tomb of Constance of Aragon, Frederick II's first wife. When you visit the tombs, you will also discover the mystery surrounding the most ornate tomb, that of Frederick II.

Tombeau de Frederic II, Palerme

- © Adwo / Shutterstock

The Treasure Room leads to the crypt, which contains the sarcophagi of the archbishops of Palermo, including that of Gualtiero Offamilio, founder of the cathedral. There is also a Roman sarcophagus and a Norman sarcophagus.

After visiting the interior of the cathedral, it's well worth climbing the stairs to the rooftops. From there, you'll have a view over the whole of Palermo and enjoy a magnificent panorama!

Vespri Luxury Rooms & Suites Palermo

Vespri Luxury Rooms & Suites

Conveniently located in Palermo's La Kalsa district, Vespri Luxury Rooms & Suites is 400 metres from Fontana Pretoria
£82 /night

👉 Visit to the cathedral

Visiting part of the cathedral is free, but if you wish to visit the other attractions, you must buy a ticket.

Cathedral opening times: Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free admission.Espace monumental opening times: Monday to Saturday, 9.30am to 6pm; Sunday, 10am to 6pm.

Different types of ticket give access to the following sites: the roofs, the benefactors' and bishops' crypt, the royal tombs, the apses, the treasury and the underground passage. For more details on prices, visit the cathedral website.

Need a hand? take a look at our guide
Latest news
Culture at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille
From Bruges to Damme by bike
Explore the International Reformation Museum
The Milanese Quadrilateral: a paradise of luxury and fashion
Read more articles
Best cities