Architecture and decorations
the Zisa

The senses tell the architecture and decorations

A sumptuous palace

The palace is in the form of a rectangular block with a compact and austere volume, relieved only by the rhythmically and discreetly inserted rooms in the elevation. The ground floor is characterised by the presence of a large porticoed corridor, open on the short sides and with three access arches, with double ogival arches, on the main façade. The larger central archway corresponds to the arch framing the entrance to the fountain room. A curious detail suggests an attentive view: the painting in the entrance archway, where various small figures animate the space. These are called the ‘The Devils of the Zisa’ in popular tradition. The legend, born around these images, tells the story of the impossibility of determining their precise number, which varies every time they are looked at and counted.

The magic of the fountains

In the fountain room, below the mosaics, water flowed through a marble slab into a gutter at floor level, interspersed with basins and opus sectile decorations. This channel connects the internal basins with the grand fish pond, located outside, in front of the elevation, in a symmetrical position to it. You can still hear the water gushing and flowing slowly through the mosaics.

The gold of the mosaics

Touching the mosaic tiles on the western side of the fountain room gives you a unique feeling that you don’t get every day. As usual, the mosaics do not deal with themes related to spiritual and ecclesiastical life, but they have a secular theme. The mosaic panels, Byzantine in style and Islamic in iconography, are composed of tiny glittering tiles. With a gold background, they show two facing archers in the centre of a tondo decorated with intertwined and plant motifs, while birds perched on trees are shooting at them; in the two side tondos, there are pairs of facing peacocks pecking at dates hanging from palm trees.

The senses tell the historical context

The Admiral’s dedication

The senses tell the flooring

A building constructed in a short space of time

Intertwining of knowledge in Norman Palermo

The flooring: shapes, motifs and iconography

The senses tell the external architecture and the original layout

Shapes and colours of the wooden ceiling

The Palace of Kings

Saint Peter’s Chapel in the Royal Palace


From oblivion to the recovery of memory

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

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

The senses tell the interior

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

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

The mosaic cycle, an ascending path towards the light

The senses tell baroque decoration

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

The birth of the Norman kingdom

The Royal Throne

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

The opus sectile floor of the Palatine Chapel

The Genoard Park, the garden of pleasures and wonders

The senses tell the architecture and decorations

The Cassaro

From earthquake to collapse

the Baroque exterior

The mosaics of the transept and the apses

The architectural appearance and transformations over time

The interior of the church

The architectural space

The senses tell the Zisa over the centuries

The mosaics of the naves

The senses tell the ceiling

The senses tell restorations


the Baroque interior

The senses tell the mosaic cycle

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

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

The senses tell the architecture

An architectural crescendo

The return of water

The senses tell the historical context

The senses tell the historical context

The rediscovered palace

The decorations on the bell tower