This museum is in Via Mandralisca, next to the Duomo square, and offers the art collection of the baron Enrico Piraino di Mandralisca and a very nice library, containing about 6,000 volumes and including a lot of sixteenth-century texts, two incunabula, as well as history, literature, philosophy and nature books, and nineteenth-century newspapers. There is a splendid numismatic collection with coins from Lipari and Cefalù. In the art gallery you find works of art from various periods.
The most famous work is the “Portrait of an Unknown Man” by Antonello da Messina, one of the most famous painters of the European fifteenth century. Antonello da Messina was born in Messina around 1430 and died in 1479. He is considered to be one of the greatest Renaissance painters for his many artistic innovations, and for his development of character and psychology in portraiture. From his birth place Messina in Sicily the master travelled the Italian commercial and artistic routes of Italy, and maybe of Northern Europe, where he absorbed the state of art in the new developments in painting, and developed them in a unique personal style. In Naples he came in contact with the Flemish style, in Rome and Florence he was influenced by the developed Renaissance techniques and especially by Piero della Francesca, and during a prolonged working period in Venice he contributed extensively to the birth of the Venetian school. It is not surprising that a Sicilian painter would use such different influences in his works. During Antonello’s time Sicily was a truly cosmopolitan island, and had been so for centuries and a crossroad of civilizations. Sicilian artists and intellectuals looked upon foreign influences with a worldly attitude interested only in acquiring the best.Antonello is particularly recognized for revolutionizing the style of portraiture. In a sense he was the first modern portrait painter, combining great detail, precision, and psychological insight in his works. Before Antonello Italian portraits were either frontal or made from a side view. Antonello created the three-quarter portrait that shows more of the subjects’ faces and allows greater insight in their personalities. Although this style is generally attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, it was actually invented by Antonello. The famous Portrait of Unknown Man, now shown at the Mandralisca museum in Cefalù, depicts a man which has been described as “typically Sicilian,” with his “ammiccante” (devious, snitching, betraying) gaze. A leading scholar of Italian painting, Federico Zeri, wrote that the Unknown Man represents and universalizes the wily, devious, and scheming, and the clever and intelligent, nature of the Sicilian and Mediterranean male. When it comes to archaeology, many items come from Lipari.
Among the items at the Mandralisca museum there is one that stands out in particular and that is the famous “Vase of the tuna salesman”. The vase is bell-shaped and the technique is the “red figure”. Furthermore, there is a very rare malacology collection (molluscan animals) with 20,000 exemplars from all over the world.
Opening hours (daily): Oct-Mar: 09:00-12:30/15.30-18:00, Apr-Sep: 09:00-12:30/15:30-19:00, Aug: 09:00-12:30/15:30-00:00. Price: 5€/person, groups 3€/person, school classes 1€/child.
THE NORMAN CATHEDRAL
The cathedral was founded in 1131 at the behest of the Norman king Roger II, and it is a synthesis of several cultures. It was built by Norman architects and Arabic craftsmen, conditioned by Byzantine liturgical prescriptions. After a period of decline, it was renovated in 1267.
The layout has remained substantially intact. The interior is dominated by the solemn rhythm of the colonnade and by the image of Christ Pantocrator in the apse bowl, surrounded by mosaics showing a very elevated decoration style. On the side-walls are other mosaics from the late-1200s depicting prophets, the saints and the patriarchs.
Please, wear decent clothes while visiting Sicilian churches; it is not allowed to enter in a t-shirt and shorts/short skirt. Opening hours (daily): 08:00-12:00/15:30-18:00.
THE WASHING PLACE – IL LAVATOIO
The inhabitants called this celebrated washing place “‘u ciumi” (river), but scholars have expressed many doubts about its medieval origin. This charming place was used by women who wanted to wash until a few decades ago because of its cool running water. It is mentioned by Boccaccio and is referred to as “Cefaloide”, which gives strength to the thesis that connects the etymology of the name of the place to water. At the entrance, on the right side, at the foot of the stairs, there is a poem by Vincenzo Auria: “Here flows Cefalino, more salubrious than any other river, purer than silver, colder than snow”. You go down a picturesque flight of stairs made of lava stones to a room covered by a low ceiling, which makes the washing place look like a cave. Out of numerous mouths in three walls there comes an imposing quantity of water.
THE OSTERIO MAGNO
This legendary residence of King Roger II, the Osterio Magno (restored and reopened as an exhibition centre) is a building showing extremely interesting structures. Knowledge of this place was further enriched by the discovery of an exceptionally precious 16th century drawing, probably by Giovanni Ventimiglia, to whose family the Osterio Magno belonged from the 14th century and on. At the bottom of the drawing there is the caption “Domus Magna”. The architectonic elements, that have come to light bear witness of the development of the building from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, and some vestiges of ancient Kephaloidion have appeared.The adjoining square tower, on the corner of Corso Ruggero, was built in the 1300s and has a fine three-light window set into an elaborate Chiaramonte-style arch. The palace, now completely restored, is used for temporary exhibitions.
THE TEMPLE OF DIANA
Diana is the goddess of the moon and the water. From the earliest historical age (around the ninth century B.C.) dates the cistern, with a lid of a dolmen type constituting the fulcrum of the megalithic edifice, known as the Temple of Diana. This is a polygonal work in big blocks, consisting in two rooms at the sides of a long corridor, at the end of which there is, towards the west, the only access, an elegantly moulded monolithic architrave. The structure itself, which has always held a great fascination for travellers and scholars, was probably built when the frourion was set up, and was amply restored in the second century B.C. Its function remains doubtful, but it is likely that to the original sacred one, connected with local water worship, another was added, probably defensive, in relation to its geographical position.
On the top of the Rock there are ruins of a castle, that on the basis of archaeological data so far acquired, can be dated to the twelfth or thirteenth century, even though some sources document its existence in the Byzantine age. The building, which has a rectangular layout, and two towers, one to the north and one to the east, is further protected by a boundary wall which encompasses it.It takes about 20 minutes to reach the Temple of Diana, and another 40 minutes to get to the top and the castle. To enter the top-area and to see the castle ruins you will have to pay an entrance fee of €3,50 (cheaper for children and groups). A path leads uphill from Corso Ruggero and Via dei Saraceni to the top of the promontory. The easiest way is to start this walk is to take the stairs from Piazza Garibaldi. The first stretch of the trail leads past the ancient crenellated walls before rising steeply; particularly tiring in the midday heat of summer, it is best tackled in the early morning or at dusk. From the top you can enjoy a wonderful view ranging from Capo d’Orlando to Palermo. Below, to the east, the town is protected by the promontory marked by a lookout tower, the Torre Caldura, with only few remains have survived. On particularly clear days the Aeolian Islands are clearly visible. Findings on this rocky outcrop confirm that it accommodated the earliest settlements in the area with evidence from different periods in history including the ruins of an ancient Greek megalithic building, known as the Temple ofDiana. At the top, are remnants of a castle dating from between the 12th-13th century, recently restored.
THE SANCTUARY OF GIBILMANNA
The Sanctuary of Gibilmanna is dedicated to the Madonna. The name is of Arabic origin, and it refers to “Gibel el Mann”- mountain of the Manna- or to “Gibel el Iman”- mountain of the faith. Not only its natural position on the hillside of Pizzo S. Angolo with a certain altitude but also its embedding in a forest of beeches, elms, ashes, oaks and chestnuts gives it a certain fascination. It seems that its origin goes back very far and it repatriates to the birth of the cenobetic benedectic community, founded on Papa Gregorio Magno´s wish. For centuries the sacred place enriched significantly thanks to the contributions of other holy orders, such as the Eremenits and the Capuchins. Obviously the place underwent several renovations, the most important ones during the baroque period. Inside you will find an infinite number of figurative art with sacred background, starting with the Chapel dedicated to the Madonna containing a Byzantine fresco of the Madonna col Bambino. The inside of the museum adds historical and cultural fascination to the whole structure and offers the possibility to admire sacred pieces of art. Many of these pieces are realized with few materials. Some of the pieces show what the working conditions of the monks were like. A lot of them represent the spirit of the poor and simple Franciscan life and religion. These pictures serve as a kind of historical documentation of the life of the Gibilmanna inhabitants and their religious determinations. In the museum you respire the atmosphere of humility and poverty, which reflects the Franciscan spirit, so that the absence of famous artists’ masterpieces should not astonish. The museum’s aim is conserve and take care of these pieces of art and here you can really enjoy the assets of art from the cloistrered seat of the Capuchins. It is dedicated to Frà Giammaria di Tusa, who lived in the 16th century.