the historical context
The Palatine Chapel

The Cassaro

In the oldest part of the city, now the Cassaro, stands the Qasr, from the Arabic word for Palace or Castle. Already present in Roman times, it was rebuilt in Arab times and then transformed by the Normans into the symbol par excellence of monarchical power. In the Muslim era, it was the residence of the Arab emirs, who from 937 moved to the fortified citadel in today’s Kalsa district, near the port.The Qasr was connected to the grandiose Gami Mosque , located in the area where the first Byzantine core of the present Cathedral stood, near the Punic-Roman walls.
The mosque, adapted by the Aghlabid dynasty and opened for worship on Fridays, was a building of considerable size which, according to the chronicles of the time written by the Arab historians and travellers Ibn Hawqal and Al Idrisi , could accommodate over seven thousand people. During the Muslim rule, the Greek episcopal tradition was kept alive thanks to the bishop of Palermo, Nicodemus , who was based in the church of Santa Domenica Ciriaca , in the territories of Monreale. When the Normans conquered Sicily, thanks to the work of the Great Count Roger I who, together with his brother Robert Guiscard , devised a complex plan that began with the 1061 landing in Messina, they decided to settle once again in the Cassaro.
This was undoubtedly due to its elevated position, between the depressions of the Kemonia and Papireto rivers, which, at the time, delimited the central part of the ancient city. The Cassaro regained its former prerogative as a place of political and religious representation, as the Emir’s palace became the seat of the nascent Norman monarchy and a symbol of the centralisation of power.
Bishop Nicodemus was brought back to the city to convert the great mosque into a church for Christian worship. The basilica has been serving Christian worship since 1072. The Norman reconstruction of the building, which began in 1169, is the work of Archbishop Gualtiero Offamilio . The Cathedral was dedicated to Mary the Blessed Virgin of the Assumption in 1185.

The senses tell the historical context

The senses tell the historical context

The flooring: shapes, motifs and iconography

The senses tell baroque decoration

The rediscovered palace

Shapes and colours of the wooden ceiling

The Admiral’s dedication

The senses tell restorations

The senses tell the interior

Saint Peter’s Chapel in the Royal Palace

The senses tell the mosaic cycle

A building constructed in a short space of time

The senses tell the ceiling

The mosaics of the transept and the apses

The return of water

The Cassaro


The architectural space

Intertwining of knowledge in Norman Palermo

The Palace of Kings

The birth of the Norman kingdom

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

From earthquake to collapse

the Baroque interior

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

the Baroque exterior

The senses tell the external architecture and the original layout

The architectural appearance and transformations over time

The opus sectile floor of the Palatine Chapel

From oblivion to the recovery of memory

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

The Royal Throne

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

The mosaic cycle, an ascending path towards the light


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

The senses tell the architecture and decorations

The senses tell the architecture

The interior of the church

The mosaics of the naves

An architectural crescendo

The senses tell the historical context

The senses tell the Zisa over the centuries

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

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

The senses tell the flooring

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

The decorations on the bell tower

The Genoard Park, the garden of pleasures and wonders