One of the jewels of the Sicilian coast, Cefalù is dramatically sited on a headland, under a great, sheltering, rocky outcrop. It is from these two features, the headland and head shaped rock, that Cefalù’s name is thought to derive, from the Greek Kephale, or head. In a prime coastal location it was settled by the Sikels, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs before the Normans arrived in the 11th Century and built the dramatic cathedral which gives the town its heart. Cefalù’s narrow streets, full of character and lined with shops and restaurants, and beautiful central square, invite holiday-mood meanderings. In more recent years it has become a very popular holiday resort, but it has retained a bustling fishing village atmosphere and a rare combination of outstanding monuments and beautiful sandy beaches.
There is more than a slightly Arabic feel about the warren of streets in the centre of town, but it was the Normans who left the strongest mark on Cefalù, in particular in the cathedral with its striking four-square twin towers and honey coloured stone, which is the focal point of the town. Built by Roger I between 1131 and 1240, as an act of thanks after surviving a shipwreck nearby, the cathedral is one of the great Norman masterpieces. The interior is all soaring, clean lines and peace, and the eye is drawn immediately – as it is intended to – to the breath-taking mosaic Christ Pantocrator in the apse, which has been described as the one of the most perfect representations of the Redeemer in all Christian art. The cathedral’s columns are a prime example of the Sicily’s endless cultural interminglings, having been reused from a Roman Temple. Cefalù also boasts an interesting museum, the Museo Mandralisca which contains a variety of archeological and artistic artefacts, and part of the Palace of Roger II – the Osteria Magno.
Cathedral of Cefalù - opened 8.00am till noon / 3.30pm to 7.00pm (5.00pm winter)
Cloister of the Cathedral of Cefalù – recently restored and opened to the public. Wonderfully decorated columns depicting the Old Testament. Not all the columns have the sculptures with time some have been damaged by the weather, but still worth while a visit.
Opened everyday from 10.00am to 1.00pm / 2.00pm to 4.00pm Entrance Euro 2.00 for adults Euro 1.00 for senior citizens, students and children.
Museo Mandralisca – open April to September 9.00am to 12.30pm / 3.30pm to 7.00pm
October to March 9.00am to 12.30pm / 3.30pm to 6.00pm Entrance 4.00
Tel 0921 421547 www.museomandralisca.it
Chiesa del Purgatorio (formerly Santo Stefano Protomartire) its front graced by an elegant double staircase leading up to a Baroque doorway. Just inside the sarcophagus of Baron Madralisca. Further information on admission times, call 0921 922021.
La Rocca a path leads uphill from Corso Ruggero and Via del Sarceni to the summit. The first part of the route leads past ancient crenulated walls before rising steeply. During summer, it is best tackled early morning, as the path is west facing where the afternoon sun is positioned.
Finds on the rock confirm the earliest settlements in the area, evidence from different periods in history including the ruins of an Ancient Greek megalithic building, called Temple of Diana. On the top are the remains of a 12C to 13C castle, recently restored.
Time: 20 min to the Temple of Diana; another 40 min to the top.
Entrance to La Rocca closes at 5.00pm
Lavatoio – wash house, Via Vittoria Emanuale, located in the renaissance building of Palazzo Martino. The medieval wash house was re-constructed in 1514 known by the locals as u ciumi “the river.” The water comes from the river Cefalino, from the mountains near Gratteri. The wash house was used until comparatively recently.
Porta Pescara, Via Vittoria Emanuale on the left near Piazza Marina. This is the only surviving medieval gateway of the original four, currently it displays fishing equipment.
Chiesa della Idria, Via Ortolano di Bordonaro, Piazza Crispi, stando the Church of the Hydria flanked by the Bastion of Cape Marchiafava with its sweeping view.
Via Guidecca (old Jewish quarters) , nearby the ruins of ancient fortifications (megalithic) can be seen.
Aleister Crowley in Cefalù
Crowley, along with Leah Hirsig, founded the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalù, Sicily in 1920 The name was borrowed from Rabelais's satire Gargantua, where the "Abbey of Theleme" is described as a sort of anti-monastery where the lives of the inhabitants were "spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure. This idealistic utopia was to be the model of Crowley's commune, while also being a type of magical school, giving it the designation "Collegium ad Spiritum Sanctum," The College of the Holy Spirit. The general programme was in line with the A∴A∴ course of training, and included daily adorations to the Sun, a study of Crowley's writings, regular yogic and ritual practices (which were to be recorded), as well as general domestic labor. The object, naturally, was for students to devote themselves to the Great Work of discovering and manifesting their True Wills. Mussolini's Fascist government expelled Crowley from the country at the end of April 1923.