Sicily top attractions: the Cappella Palatina in Palermo

Take the Byzantine style of the Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice; remix it with muslim architecture features: you’ll get the beautiful and unusual Cappella Palatina in Palermo, one of the Sicily top attractions.

Sicily top attractions: Cappella Palatina, the church with an arabic twist

The beautiful island of Sicily, earlier part of the Magna Graecia – the Greek colonies of South Italy – then “the granary of Rome” – had a tormented story of invasions and counter – invasions.

In the Dark Ages, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Italy became a battlefield for the so told Barbarians, the Byzantines – who had outposts and territories in North – eastern and south Italy – and some local political powers.

Meanwhile the situation in France was relatively more “civilized” and peaceful: the Normans (basically: the Viking raiders who settle in in the north – west of France, named “Normandy” after them) had started to merge with the local population, as Rollo (are you a Vikings fan? Yes, that Rollo!) agreed to swear fealty to the French King.

Yet, a bit of berserker spirit was definitely still in the Normans veins: a Norman will conquer England (William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings, 1066) and the Norman gentry will fight in Italy as well. The Hauteville family expanded its dominion in Southern Italy and Sicily and, in 1130, Roger Hauteville became king of Sicily.
In 1132 Roger II of Sicily commissioned the Cappella Palatina “the chapel of the (royal) Palace”.

The Cappella Palatina was built on an older religious building, which became the crypt. And the Cappella Palatina is still one of the Sicily top attractions for many reasons: it is quite a unique mix of a Norman church, a Byzantine Basilica and Arabic features: the Saracen arches and muqarnas, a definitely Arabic architectural ornament which reminds stalactites.

The Cappella Palatina literally shines because of the mosaics, above all the impressive Christ Pantocrator (the Almighty).

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