Palermo Cathedral was erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil, the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and King William II’s minister, on the site of an earlier basilica. The church that predated the cathedral was founded by St. Gregory and in the 9th century was turned into a mosque by the Saracens after the conquest of Palermo, this Muslim influence is evidenced in Quran verses carved into parts of the building. The cathedral has been altered, restored and has a long history of additions. The corner towers date from between the 14th and 15th centuries and the southern porch was added during the early Renaissance period. There were significant changes to the cathedral between 1781 and 1801, it was these changes that gave it its current neoclassical appearance.
The crypt of the cathedral houses the tombs and sarcophagi of Roman, Byzantine and Norman ages. The archbishop Walter Ophamil is buried here alongside other members of the royalty and nobility. The cathedral also contains a treasury with immaculate goblets and vestments dating from the late middle ages. One of the more unusual aspects of the cathedral is that it has a heliometer (a solar observatory) built in 1690, it is one of a number built in Italy during the 17th and 18th centuries to standardise time across the country. A small hole in one of the minor domes acts as a pinhole camera, projecting an image of the sun onto the floor at solar noon (12:00 in winter, 13:00 in summer). There is a bronze line named ‘la Meridiana’, on the floor running north to south, the ends of the line mark the positions at the summer and winter solstices, signs of the zodiac show the various other dates throughout the year.
GPS: 38.11431, 13.35596