|Cefalu is an ancient city in the province of Palermo, located on the northern coast of Sicily, Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea about 75 km east from the provincial capital and 185 km west of Messina.
The town is one of the major tourist attractions in the region. It has Roman baths, an ancient cathedral, marvellous beaches in the zone and is home to the sculptor Tommaso Geraci.
Cefalù does not appear in history before 396 BC, and seems to have owed its importance mainly to its naturally strong position. The only ancient remains on the mountain are those of a small building in good polygonal work (a style of construction very rare in Sicily), consisting of a passage on each side of which a chamber opens. The doorways are of finely-cut stone, and of Greek type, and the date, though uncertain, cannot, from the careful jointing of the blocks, be very early.
On the summit of the promontory are extensive remains of a Saracenic castle. The town's fortifications formerly extended to the shore, on the side where the modern town now is, in the form of two long walls protecting the port. There are remains of a wall of massive rectangular blocks of stone at the modern Porta Garibaldi on the south.
The new town was founded at the foot of the mountain, by the shore, by Roger II of Sicily in 1131, and the cathedral was begun in the same year.
The Cathedral, begun in 1131, in a style of Norman architecture which would be more accurately called Sicilian Romanesque. The exterior is well preserved, and is largely decorated with interlacing pointed arches; the windows also are pointed. On each side of the façade is a massive tower of four storeys. The round-headed Norman portal is worthy of note. A semi-circular apse is set into the east end wall. Its strengthening counterforts that work like buttresses, are shaped as paired columns to lighten their aspect. The groined vaulting of the roof is visible in the choir and the right transept, while the rest of the church has a wooden roof. Fine cloisters, coeval with the cathedral, adjoin it.
Two strong matching towers flank the cathedral porch, which has three arches (rebuilt ca 1400) corresponding to the three naves.
The interior of the cathedral was restored in 1559, though the pointed arches of the nave, borne by ancient granite columns, are still visible: and the only mosaics preserved are those of the apse and the last bay of the choir: they are remarkably fine specimens of the Byzantine art of the period (1148) and, though restored in 1859-1862, have suffered much less than those at Palermo and Monreale from the process. The figure of the Pantocrator gracing the apse is especially noteworthy.