Architecture and decorations
the Zisa

A building constructed in a short space of time

According to the testimony of Ugo Falcando , we can deduce that the palace of the Zisa was built in a short time and with a huge expenditure. These characteristics are not dissimilar to those of other imposing structures of the Norman period, since the wide availability of craftsmen, not only native but also from North Africa, with a solid scientific knowledge of construction techniques, allowed for rapid execution of the construction work. The time taken to build the Zisa could be calculated from the year 1166, which marked the death of William I . It is possible to assume that work began a few years earlier, between 1164 and 1165. The palace was finished and decorated in the early years of the reign of William II , immediately after these dates. This temporal circumstance could reasonably advance the hypothesis that the Zisa was not built ex novo.
The Normans’ interest in Islamic culture can be seen in the main façade of the palace, which bears an epigraphic frieze in kufic characters in the crowning, partly destroyed today due to the transformation it underwent at various times. According to 19th-century studies, the figure of William II of Hauteville, “eager for glory”, is glorified in an inscription in the ambulatory preceding the fountain room, the transcription of which includes the following verses: “this is the earthly paradise that opens to the eye, this is Musta’iz and this (palace) al’Aziz”.
The Islamic custom of juxtaposing adjectives with a particular identifying resonance can be found here. In this case, the current name of Zisa derives from the word al-aziz (the splendid, the magnificent).

The senses tell the flooring

The senses tell the historical context

The interior of the church

Saint Peter’s Chapel in the Royal Palace

The rediscovered palace

The mosaics of the transept and the apses

The birth of the Norman kingdom

The beautiful Zisa and its garden: solacium regi among sounds, colours and scents

The senses tell the external architecture and the original layout

The senses tell the architecture

The Cassaro

The Admiral’s dedication

the Baroque interior


Gold and light: the splendour of the mosaics in the Royal Chapel

From earthquake to collapse

From oblivion to the recovery of memory

the roof of Paradise: one of the most representative works of medieval art

The senses tell the ceiling

The architectural appearance and transformations over time

The Norman conquest of Sicily and the birth of a new Latin kingdom

The loca solatiorum: dwellings for recreation, well-being and hunting

Different styles and transformations of “one of the most beautiful monuments in the world”

The senses tell the historical context

The senses tell the mosaic cycle

The mosaic cycle, an ascending path towards the light

The opus sectile floor of the Palatine Chapel

The Palace of Kings

The senses tell baroque decoration


The senses tell the architecture and decorations

An architectural crescendo

The senses tell the interior

A building constructed in a short space of time

Shapes and colours of the wooden ceiling

The senses tell restorations

The Genoard Park, the garden of pleasures and wonders

The senses tell the historical context

the Baroque exterior

Intertwining of knowledge in Norman Palermo

The flooring: shapes, motifs and iconography

The Royal Throne

The ancient convent of the Martorana, a history of devotion and tradition

The architectural envelope: the Greek cross layout oriented towards the light

The senses tell the Zisa over the centuries

The return of water

The decorations on the bell tower

The mosaics of the naves

The architectural space