In the Norman era, walking on the Cassaro Alto meant admiring the magnificence of monarchical power. Today’s Cassaro derives from Qasr, the palace that became the seat of the Emir during Islamic rule. Following his coronation, Roger II decided to transform and extend the building to make it his palace. It was a marvel for the eyes: the curtain wall was interspersed with watchtowers and you could already catch a glimpse of the red dome of the chapel the king had designed for himself: the Palatine.
Craftsmen, stonemasons, artists, marble workers: there were many craftsmen working on the extension of the Qasr and the construction of King Roger’s personal chapel, the Palatine. In the space in front of the palace, a Byzantine mosaic artist chooses the tiles for the mosaic cycle. They examine them and touch them, they have bright colours and a durable texture. But now there’s no time to waste, the Palatine Chapel must be finished within a few months, to then shine for eternity.
The Cassaro is situated in an elevated position, between the depressions of the Kemonia and Papireto rivers which, at that time, delimited the core of the ancient city. The sound of flowing water brought tranquillity to the people of the time, as they bustled around the ancient markets for spices and textiles. For a moment, they seem to forget the noise and vigour of the horses’ hooves used by the nobles to reach the palace.