The Church of San-Cataldo in Palermo is a charming 12th century church

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Visit Palermo church of Saint-Cataldo

The Church of Saint-Cataldo is in the centre of historic Palermo, in the northern region of Sicily. The church is oftn used as a 'symbol' of Palermo and is one of its most important monuments.

Explore the Church of Saint-Cataldo in Palermo

Italy This Way comment: the Church of San-Cataldo is unusual among Sicilian churches because it is not decorated with mosaics and paintings and is now restored to its original form, which makes it very interesting as a contrast to the many baroque churches you will see on the island.

Built in the 12th century, the church of San-Cataldo combines two architectural styles: Arab and Norman. It was originally built as the chapel for an important palace, although no trace of the palace remains today. By the late 12th century the church had been given to the benedictine monastery, who retained ownership until the 18th century and used it as a hospital.

Crucifix in the Palermo Church of San Cataldo

After the 18th century the church of San-Cataldo was used as the "post office" by the Sicilian government, and was apparently in a very poor condition. In the 19th century it was restored to the church we see today and it is also at this time that the architects chose the red colour for the domes and resolved the problems with the domes leaking. This red colour is now used by various churches in Sicily.

Many of the arches are "blind" windows, and most light enters the church through windows in the rectangular box that supports the three red domes.

From the outside the church is quite unremarkable, a simple rectangular box with rows of roman style arches, a simple facade and a roof on which three red domes are clearly visible. Inside, the layout is also simple with a central nave, two side aisles, and a small altar area, and walls of bare stone.

It is the three domes that give the church of San-Cataldo most of its character, because the interior has numerous columns and arches to support these domes and the entire interior space is open apart from these columns. In the side aisles, the ceiling is a ribbed vault which further enhances the effect, and many of the columns also support carved capital stones with interesting carvings.

The interior walls were plastered and decorated during a renovation in the 17th century, but these interior decorations were removed as part of the 19th century renovation. There is now very little interior furnishing in the church, apart from a crucifix in the altar area and a marble pulpit.

Although there are no mosaics decorating the walls in the church, the floors are of mosaic, made of marble and laid in an attractive pattern with both Muslim and Byzantine influences.

It is interesting to remember that although the church we see today is an independent building, that was never the case during its active history: it was always part of a palace, or group of post-ofice buildings, and had other buildings on most sides so it is quite a recent transformation that we can appreciate the building poperly.

Capital stones on the columns in the Church of San Cataldo

Attractions nearby

There are numerous beautiful churches in the centre of historic Palermo including the Palatine Chapel in the Royal Palace, the Church of Santa-Caterina and the Church of La Martorana on the same square as the Church of San-Cataldo and Palermo cathedral, and a short trip out of the centre takes you to Monrale cathedral. See our Palermo guide for information.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.

See also:

Map of Palermo church of Saint-Cataldo and places to visit

Places to visit near Palermo church of Saint-Cataldo

Palermo church of la Martorana

Palermo church of la Martorana

The church of la Martorana in Palermo has an exceptional interior of 12th century byzantine mosaics

Palermo church of la Martorana guide

Palermo church of Saint-Catherine

Palermo church of Saint-Catherine

The Church of Saint-Catherine is a magnificnt baroque and rococo church in the historic centre of Palermo

Palermo church of Saint-Catherine guide

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo is a splendid city with a wealth of Arab-Norman architecture listed with UNESCO.

Palermo guide

Palermo Royal Palace

Palermo Royal Palace

The Palermo Palace of the Normans is the oldest Royal Palace in Europe, and holds the Palatine Chapel and a museum as well as Sicilian government offices

Palermo Royal Palace guide

Palatine Chapel

Palatine Chapel

The Palatine Chapel in Palermo is a very beautiful church, built in the 12th century in the Norman-Byzantine style

Palatine Chapel guide

Monreale

Monreale

Admire the cathedral and monastery complex of Monreale.

Monreale guide