The Monuments of the site "Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale"

The monuments that make up the Unesco serial site are 9: Royal Palace and Palatine Chapel; Zisa Palace; Palermo Cathedral; Monreale Cathedral; Cefalù Cathedral; Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti; Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio; Church of San Cataldo and the Admiral's Bridge. Let's get to know them

The Cathedral of Palermo

PALERMO CATHEDRALThe entrance to the Cathedral of Palermo, dedicated to the Virgin Mary of the Assumption, is located in Piazza Duomo which can be reached from Corso Vittorio Emanuele (the Via Cassaro, the backbone of the ancient city). On the area of ​​the current Cathedral of Palermo, towards the fourth century. a first church was built which was destroyed by the vandals and of which no traces remain. In 604, a basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary of the Assumption was built in the thick place, transformed into a mosque after the conquest of Palermo by the Saracens in 831. The basilica returned to Christian worship in 1072 with the conquest of Palermo by the Normans. The current Cathedral was built in 1185 by Archbishop Gualtiero Offamilio on the area of ​​the first basilica. The various construction phases followed one another for several centuries, causing the Cathedral to take on various styles. 

Royal Palace and Palatine Chapel - Palermo 

Royal Palace

Royal palace palermoThe main entrance is located in Piazza Parliament, the driveway and the tourist one in Piazza Indipendenza, in front of Palazzo d'Orleans, seat of the presidency of the Sicilian Region. The Royal Palace of Palermo, the imperial seat at the time of Frederick II and Corrado IV, is now known as the Norman Palace and is the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The Palace was built during the Arab denomination (1132th century) over the remains of previous Punic settlements, the traces of which are still visible in the basement. With the arrival of the Normans, the Palace was enlarged and in 1947 during the reign of Roger II, the Palatine Chapel and other structures were built: the Pisana Tower, home to the Treasure room, and the Torre della Gioaria, which houses the below the room of the Armigeri and on the upper floor the room of King Roger decorated with mosaics and the room of the Winds. The second floor of the building houses the Sala d'Ercole with Giuseppe Velasco frescoes (since XNUMX this room has been the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly), the Yellow Room and the Viceroy Room. The rooms are connected to the so-called crypt by two side stairs. The crypt is a church of Byzantine origin

Palatine Chapel 

palatine chapelThe Palatine Chapel is a three-nave basilica dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. It was built at the behest of Roger II and was consecrated on April 28, 1140 as a church of the royal family.

The three naves are separated by granite and marble columns with composite capitals that support a structure of pointed arches. The dome, erected above the three apses of the sanctuary, completes the construction. The dome and bell tower were originally visible from the outside before being incorporated into the Royal Palace following subsequent constructions.

The dome, the transept and the apses are entirely decorated in the upper part with Byzantine mosaics, depicting the blessing Christ Pantocrator, the most impactful image of the chapel, the evangelists and various biblical scenes

Church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (Church of the Martorana) - Palermo

martoranaBellini Square. the church was built on the ancient city walls in 1143 at the behest of Giorgio d'Antiochia, admiral in the service of the Norman king

Roger II near the nearby Benedictine monastery, founded by the noblewoman Eloisa Martorana in 1194, hence the name "Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio" or "Martorana".

What characterizes this church is the union of styles from the Arab-Norman to the Baroque.

In the 1740th century the central apse was destroyed and replaced by a new rectangular Baroque apse, designed by Paolo Amato. In 1846 Nicolò Palma designed a new façade, according to the Baroque style of the time, which overlooks the square. In XNUMX the lowering of the floor of the square was carried out and the staircase was built.

Inside the church, the 1588 choir is divided into two parts. The Stories of the life of Jesus by G. Borremans and the Glory of the Virgin by Olivio Sozzi (1744) are frescoed. On the left is the Madonna del Rosario by Giuseppe Salerno known as the Zoppo di Ganci.

The entrance contains two mosaics originally placed on the facade: Roger crowned by Christ and George of Antioch at the foot of the Virgin, who holds an inscription stating that he erected the church from its foundations.

The baroque apse houses a lapis lazuli tabernacle donated by the Tsar of Russia, and the painting by Vincenzo da Pavia with The Ascension (1533). Among the works of art in the church is the wooden door on the right of the choir made by Arab workers in the XNUMXth century.

Church of San Cataldo - Palermo 

san cataldoChurch of San Cataldo. Bellini Square. Erected in the XII century. Seat of the order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. Built in the 1787th century, the church was entrusted to the Benedictines of Monreale, who kept it until 1882. In XNUMX it was restored by Giuseppe Patricolo. The exterior has a compact sandstone wall facing with carvings of blind arches and perforated ferrules. Above the characteristic three red domes that emphasize the whole structure. The interior has three naves closed by apses, of which only the largest is visible from the outside. The walls are not decorated, but are purposely left in a rustic state, with the bricks in evidence, while the capitals in which the colonnades separating the three naves end are probably dating back to a period prior to the construction of the church and taken from other places. sacred.

Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti - Palermo 

saint john of the hermitsSt. John of the Hermits. Via dei Benedettini, 18. The church, whose origins date back to the 1880th century, was transformed into a mosque and rebuilt for Christian worship in the Norman period (XNUMXth century) at the behest of Roger II. Over the centuries it has undergone many transformations, the last in XNUMX by the architect Giuseppe Patricolo. The church is characterized by its red domes, leaning with one side against a front square body (perhaps a mosque), it is made of a Latin cross divided into square spans on each of which rests a hemisphere. The presbytery, ending in a niche, is surmounted by a dome, like that of the two quadrangular bodies that flank it and of which the one on the left rises to a bell tower. Inside there is an Arab cistern and a cloister with a garden that has paired columns with acanthus leaf capitals.

Palazzo della Zisa - Palermo 


Zisa square. XII century Transformed in the fourteenth century. and in the following centuries. The Palazzo della Zisa (from the Arabic al-ʿAzīza, meaning “the splendid”) stood outside the walls of the city of Palermo, inside the Norman royal park. Restored in the seventeenth at the behest of Giovanni de Sandoval who had bought the building and who adopted it for his housing needs. In 1806 it passed to the Princes Notarbartolo heirs of the Sandovals who made it. Currently the Zisa houses the Museum of Islamic Art.

Bridge of the Admiral - Palermo  

Admiral's Bridge

It was built around 1113 at the behest of Giorgio d'Antiochia, admiral of King Roger II, to connect the city to the gardens on the other side of the Oreto river. On 27 May 1860, during the Expedition of the Thousand, Garibaldi on this bridge and in the nearby Via di Porta Termini clashed with the troops of the Bourbons. Now the river no longer flows under the arches of the Norman bridge, which was diverted in 1938 due to its continuous overflows, in its place today there is a garden, with tree-lined avenues, agave and other varieties of succulent plants around it.

Cefalù Cathedral

Cefalù cathedralBuilt in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, the cathedral is preceded by a large terrace parvis. The façade is framed by large towers, lightened by elegant mullioned windows and single lancet windows and surmounted by pyramidal cusps added in the fifteenth century and different from each other: one with a square plan and battlements in the shape of flames, while the other, with a plan octagonal and with Ghibelline merlons.

The fifteenth-century portico precedes the facade, with three arches (two ogival and one rounded) supported by four columns and with cross vaults

The two side apses are decorated on the top with crossed arches and carved corbels: datable between 1215 and 1223, they depict masks, animal heads and human figures in contorted positions. More recent are the corbels of the central apse, also arranged in a random way both above and below the cornice. The central apse originally had three large windows, which were closed for the construction of the apse mosaic, and a larger one with a pointed arch.

The interior is a Latin cross with three naves divided by two rows of columns with bases and capitals from the XNUMXnd century AD

 Monreale Cathedral  
cathedral of monreale

The cathedral of Santa Maria Nuova was built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries at the behest of William II of Altavilla, king of Sicily. The Cathedral is famous all over the world for the rich Byzantine mosaics that decorate its interior.

After construction, the cathedral was modified several times. In the sixteenth century, on a project by Giovanni Domenico Gagini and Fazio Gagini, the portico was built along the left side, while that of the main facade was added only later in the eighteenth century. Also in the sixteenth century a large part of the internal floor was built. The ceiling destroyed by a fire was rebuilt between 1816 and 1837.

The façade is closed on the sides by two bell towers, of which the left one remained unfinished in the first order. The entrance is preceded by the eighteenth-century portico, in Baroque style. In the upper part of the facade, ending with a low triangular tympanum, there is an ogival single-lancet window framed by a decoration with blind arches intertwined with each other.

The Latin cross interior has three naves, each ending in a semicircular apse

The ceilings have exposed beams painted in the naves and Arab-type stalactites in the cruise.

The presbytery entirely occupies the area of ​​the cross, in which it is surrounded by neo-Gothic barriers, and the main apse. In the cross, it houses the wooden choir stalls, in neo-Gothic style, in two rows and, under the apse arch, opposite each other, the royal throne and the episcopal chair. The Baroque high altar is the work of Luigi Valadier (1711).

Monuments of the Arab - Norman Unesco site

Monuments of the Norman Arab Unesco site

© Centro Studi Helios and Heritage Sicily


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