MOSAIC ARTIST, Italian
(active 1145-60 in Cefalù)
Overall view of the apse1148
The cathedral of Cefalù, consecrated to the Savior and to Sts Peter and Paul, was built by Roger II, king of Sicily. The cornerstone was laid on June 7, 1131, a few months after Roger II was crowned. The church was intended to underscore the new monarch's sovereignty. When Roger II died in 1154, the cathedral was still far from finished. The final consecration is documented as having taken place in 1267.
The cathedral's chief decorations are the mosaics in the choir, which cover only the apse and bay just in front of it. Mosaics were here first employed for the decoration of a church interior in Sicily; Byzantine mosaic artists were entrusted with their creation. However, by the time the mosaics on the side walls of the choir were undertaken, native artists were working alongside the imported ones. Unlike the medieval mosaics in Rome, where there was a deliberate return to Early Christian motifs originated in Rome, the pictorial program is wholly Byzantine in flavour.
The bust of the Pantocrator was given the most prominent spot available, namely the apse calotte. The figure of Christ is much larger than all the other figures in the apse, so it can be seen as the dominant image from far back in the nave.
Beneath the apse calotte with its Pantocrator figure the mosaic is divided into three registers. Mary occupies the centre of the top one, where she is pictured as an intercessor. Turning toward her in reverence are the archangels Michael and Raphael on the left, and Gabriel and Uriel on the right. In the two lower registers, interrupted by the apse window in the centre, the apostles are pictured on a somewhat smaller scale.