Going northward around the Church of San Domenico, take (left of the prospectus) via delle Orfane till you reach a vast square holding the magnificent cathedral. Founded towards the end of the XI century by Bishop Gerlando, this Norman-Gothic style temple was enlarged and remodelled several times as of the XIV and up till the XVII century, only preserving, of the original structure, its magnificent mullioned windows still visible on the right side. Its facade is accessed by a wide, easy staircase, flanked by the magnificent, unfinished XV century belltower embellished by two sequences of blind, Gothic-Catalan mullioned windows and a window with a balcony surmounted by a beautiful, richly decorated pointed arch.
The interior, shaped like a Latin cross, has three naves divided by pointed arches standing on octagonal pillars, a magnificent, richly painted, wooden ceiling, portraying the two-headed eagle of Charles V and rich stuccoes and frescos giving the whole environment a certain sumptuousness. A small chapel of San Gerlando opens off to the right of the transept, surmounted by a finely modelled Gothic portal, and holds the Arc, a 1639 relic. We would like to point out the Chapel De Marinis in the left hand nave. In the right apse, a 1495 marble group of the Madonna with Child and several other grave monuments enriching this great monument’s magnificent interior.
Of outstanding importance the Cathedral Treasure, particularly rich in works of great historical and artistic value, including the famous sarcophagus of Phaedra, a stupendous, elegant, marble, Roman work of the III century A.D. inspired by the V century Greek style. Described and praised by all the great foreign travellers to Sicily in the XVIII century, from Riedesel to Bartels, this masterpiece (currently kept in the Church of San Nicola) found in the Roman necropolis of Agrigentum, portrays some episodes from the myth of Phaedra and Hippolytus. Opposite the cathedral, in the same square, the Episcopal Seminary, founded by Bishop Narullo in 1574 and completed in 1611. Its interior includes a wide, elegant porticoed atrium with two sequences of loggias.
An oddity: A singular, somewhat mysterious document is kept in the Cathedral archives: the devil’s letter, a XVII century manuscript, written in indecipherable characters, addressed to a nun.