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Palermo's architecture reflects the many different styles of the numerous civilizations that have ruled the city since its inception. These styles influenced each other and blended together. The following are good examples that highlight different aspects of Palermitani architecture.
Cattedrale di Palermo
This cathedral has undergone many different incarnations since its almost 2000-year history. The first structure on the site was a Christian cemetery chapel that was converted into a basilica in the 4th century. It was rebuilt after being destroyed by vandals, and then turned into a mosque during the 9th century, when Sicily fell under Arab domination. When the Normans took over Palermo in the 11th century, the building was again designated a Christian church. After an earthquake in 1197, the church was rebuilt under the direction of Archbishop Walter Ophamil. The main facade dates back to the 14th century, as do the corner towers. The church's portico is from the 15th century. The building underwent remodeling again in the late 18th century, this time along neoclassical lines.
Chiesa del Gesu
This church is recognized as a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. It was constructed by Jesuits sometime in the late 16th century and completed in 1634. The interior features incredibly ornate stonework and a plethora of sculptures. It was badly damaged during World War II, but was subsequently restored.
This building is an impressive blend of Arabic, Norman and Byzantine influences. The Arabic mosque originally on the site was enlarged by the Normans in the 12th century. Byzantine mosaics cover the interior of the chapel, depicting saints, prophets and scenes from the Bible. The central altar dates back to the late 18th century.