the ceiling
The Palatine Chapel

Shapes and colours of the wooden ceiling

The ceiling, made of painted wood, consists of two rows of central coffers, with concave lobes, flanked by small square or star-shaped coffers; the system is made of alveoli and muqarnas , typical of Islamic architecture.We note, in particular, that the nave the central aisle is decorated with muqarnas, which form the geometric structural base, starry polygons and small domes, the latter made of thin boards.In the side aisles, long panels of sloping rafters form a coffered ceiling with alternating flat and concave bands. Entirely painted, they have semicircular endings with depictions of half-figures. The ceilings of the two naves have undergone extensive restoration due to the state of degradation caused by water damage.Some of the reconstructions, of Iberian origin, date back to the 15th century.
The specialised workers excelled in woodworking, as each element of various shapes and sizes is cut, assembled and worked according to a precise order and technique, demonstrating an extensive knowledge of the physical and mechanical characteristics of the materials used. In fact, the interlocking of the elements that form a stable, self-supporting and balanced mechanism is skilful. The wood used in the ceiling ranges from fir , black pine, poplar and beech.The recurring theme of the painting cycle, rich in symbols, allegories, plant and floral motifs, geometric designs, kufic characters, auspicious inscriptions, phytomorphic and zoomorphic elements, is that of the pleasures of life and the exploits of the court.
Taken from a vast iconographic repertoire, drawing on Islamic and Western motifs, the paintings depict musicians, drinkers, dancers, animals, mythological motifs and also highly realistic scenes of everyday life such as hunting and symposium scenes, jousts, processions, races and fights. The depiction of the sovereign or other rulers and patrons in oriental clothing and poses is also original. The sovereign, in particular, wears the crown, is often seated on the throne or holds a cup of wine in his hand and is accompanied by servants and musicians. All the scenes are embellished with everyday or precious objects: barrels, cups, vases, bowls, cushions, etc. Other themes, foreign to the Islamic world, are inspired by the Byzantineand Christian repertoire: some depictions also allude to the figure of Christ , while others are taken from the Bible . In spite of the religious context, the pictorial cycle of the ceiling is mainly based on secular themes, linked to Arab court life and the world of earthly pleasures and leisure. According to one interpretation, while the mosaics, especially those in the presbytery , celebrate God through the triumphant Christ, the paintings on the wooden ceiling glorify the sovereign and court life. It would be a completely secular meaning, inserted in a cycle that tells, the story of Salvation, like a biblia pauperum .Among the animals depicted, there are birds, birds of prey such as hawks and eagles (often together with their prey), elephants, exotic animals fighting, mythological and fantastic animals such as sphinxes, griffins and harpies. However, the animal that recurs most often is the lion, considered to be royal and a symbol of strength.The most commonly used colours are white, black and red, with green borders and red background frames and white pearls made from the following pigments: lampblack, lapis lazuli, titanium oxide, minium, vermilion, lead white, orpiment, then mixed with egg yolk, acting as a binder. The latest restorations have also revealed the presence of a pure gold treatment using gold leaf, traces of which remain in the geometric decoration.

The Admiral’s dedication

Shapes and colours of the wooden ceiling

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

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

The Royal Throne

The mosaics of the transept and the apses


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

The senses tell the external architecture and the original layout

The mosaics of the naves

The senses tell the Zisa over the centuries

The Cassaro

The senses tell the architecture and decorations

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

The architectural appearance and transformations over time

The senses tell restorations

The senses tell the mosaic cycle

An architectural crescendo

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

Intertwining of knowledge in Norman Palermo

the Baroque interior

The opus sectile floor of the Palatine Chapel

The mosaic cycle, an ascending path towards the light

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

the Baroque exterior

The senses tell the ceiling

The interior of the church

The senses tell the flooring

The senses tell the historical context

The senses tell the historical context

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

The flooring: shapes, motifs and iconography

The senses tell the interior

The Palace of Kings


The decorations on the bell tower

The birth of the Norman kingdom

The Genoard Park, the garden of pleasures and wonders

The rediscovered palace

Saint Peter’s Chapel in the Royal Palace

The return of water

The senses tell the architecture

A building constructed in a short space of time

From earthquake to collapse

The senses tell baroque decoration

From oblivion to the recovery of memory

The senses tell the historical context

The architectural space

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