the historical context
The Palatine Chapel

The birth of the Norman kingdom

The Norman kingdom was born on 25 December 1130 when Roger II was crowned king of Sicily, Apulia, Calabria and Capua, in Palermo. The precious and sumptuous cloak of the ceremony is preserved, embroidered with gold filigree and embellished with gems and precious stones, made in the tiraz of Palermo , the workshop located inside the Royal Palace.

Today, it is housed in the Imperial Museum of Vienna (Weltliche Schatzkammer) and is an excellent testimony to the attention that the rulers paid to art and culture and to the cosmopolitan atmosphere that prevailed when the Palatine Chapel was built.
The city of Palermo experienced a period of prosperity since the Normans managed to maintain an openness towards different styles, religions and cultures after the occupation and conquest of Sicily, which was under Muslim domination for about two hundred years, so much so that the kingdom became a melting pot of worlds, languages and religions, not only western Latin but also eastern Byzantine and Islamic. Suffice it to say that there has been a lot of trade with North Africa and the Middle East. Certainly it was the rulers, from  Roger II to William II , who created a dialogue between the populations of the Mediterranean, based on peaceful coexistence, cooperation and the coexistence of different cultures.
During the Muslim rule, the island enjoyed a long period of prosperity, both from an economic and cultural standpoint: new cultivation techniques were introduced, water resources rationalised, mosques, places of recreation and hunting were built, the monetary system was renewed with the introduction of the gold dinar and the silver dirhem, and literature, art, philosophy and poetry were promoted. Following this period, the splendour of the Norman court made Palermo a point of reference for the entire Mediterranean basin.After Roger’s coronation, the city assumed three titles Prima Sedes, Corona Regis et Regni Caput , i.e. the first seat of the King of Sicily, the place of his coronation and the capital of the Kingdom. This inscription can be found in Palazzo Pretorio, in Villa Giulia’s Fountain of the Genius of Palermo and, of course, in the Cathedral. The latter recurs both in the mosaic panel surmounting the king’s canopy and in a marble plaque located in the southern portico.

The senses tell the historical context

The mosaics of the naves

An architectural crescendo

The senses tell the architecture and decorations

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

The flooring: shapes, motifs and iconography

the Baroque interior


The Admiral’s dedication

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

The Cassaro

The senses tell the historical context

The architectural space

The senses tell the interior

The interior of the church

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

The senses tell restorations

The Royal Throne

The birth of the Norman kingdom

The senses tell the external architecture and the original layout

A building constructed in a short space of time

The senses tell the ceiling

From oblivion to the recovery of memory

The return of water

The senses tell the historical context

The senses tell the mosaic cycle

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

The architectural appearance and transformations over time

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

From earthquake to collapse

Shapes and colours of the wooden ceiling

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

The Genoard Park, the garden of pleasures and wonders

The decorations on the bell tower


The rediscovered palace

Saint Peter’s Chapel in the Royal Palace

The senses tell the architecture

The senses tell the flooring

The opus sectile floor of the Palatine Chapel

Intertwining of knowledge in Norman Palermo

The Palace of Kings

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

The mosaics of the transept and the apses

The mosaic cycle, an ascending path towards the light

The senses tell the Zisa over the centuries

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

The senses tell baroque decoration

the Baroque exterior