The foundation of the dioceses of Troina, Agrigento, Mazara del Vallo, Siracusa, and Catania under the guidance of French monks from Calabria and the construction of their cathedrals were important steps in Count Roger’s political and ecclesiastical strategy for Sicily. A few years earlier, Roger had founded two abbeys in Calabria – Santa Maria at Sant’Eufemia and the Santissima Trinità in Mileto – both now unfortunately destroyed. However, it is possible to hypothesize that their plans were based on the model of Cluny II. This architectural plan was transferred, along with other architectural practices, to southern Italy via Benedictine monastic communities and thence to Sicily where it was used in the first Norman cathedrals.
In the light of new archival and archaeological research, much of it unpublished, this paper reconsiders the construction of the surviving Norman parts of the cathedral of Catania. The apses and transept, together with adjacent structures, survived at least two earthquakes. The original aisles will also be discussed briefly. The Norman status of the monument is reconsidered in relation to other Siculo-Norman cathedrals and to different contexts beyond the Alps.