The city was founded during the Norman era, and today is filled with mansions showing both baroque and Renaissance architectural influences. Its historic medieval quarter is graced with many beautiful churches, the most impressive of which is the Duomo, crowning the highest point in town at 720m (2,364 ft.) on the Via Cavour (tel. 0935-680214).
The old town's maze of narrow streets sprouted around this cathedral. The bell tower is from 1490, a surviving architectural feature of an even earlier church. The present building was inaugurated in 1627, the facade dating from 1719 and the dome from 1768. The facade is adorned with pilasters and columns, and the grand central door is surmounted by a large, square window topped by an eagle. The interior is spacious and filled with light. Among the best-known works of art here is the Vergine delle Vittorie, above the main altar at the far end of the nave in a 17th-century tabernacle. It is believed that it was given by Pope Nicholas II to Count Roger, ruler of Sicily, and is the traditional standard used during the Palio dei Normanni. An impressive wooden cross dating from 1455 is on view in the small chapel to the left of the chancel. Its back depicts a scene of the Resurrection that has been much reproduced in art books on Sicily. The Duomo is open daily from 8:30am to noon and 3:30 to 7pm.
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