Cappella Palatina in Palermo

Friday, 28 July 2023 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Architecture, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  8 minutes

© Holger Uwe Schmitt/cc-by-sa-4.0

© Holger Uwe Schmitt/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Palatine Chapel (Italian: Cappella Palatina) is the royal chapel of the Norman Palace in Palermo, Sicily. This building is a mixture of Byzantine, Norman and Fatimid architectural styles, showing the tricultural state of Sicily during the 12th century after Roger I and Robert Guiscard conquered the island. The Cappella Palatina is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale.

Also referred to as a Palace church or Palace chapel, it was commissioned by Roger II of Sicily in 1132 to be built upon an older chapel (now the crypt) constructed around 1080. It took eight years to build, receiving a royal charter the same year, with the mosaics being only partially finished by 1143. The sanctuary, dedicated to Saint Peter, is reminiscent of a domed basilica. It has three apses, as is usual in Byzantine architecture, with six pointed arches (three on each side of the central nave) resting on recycled classical columns. The muqarnas ceiling of the nave and the chapel’s rectilinear form show the Fatimid influence in the building’s construction.

The mosaics of the Palatine Chapel are of unparalleled elegance as concerns elongated proportions and streaming draperies of figures. They are also noted for subtle modulations of colour and luminance. The oldest are probably those covering the ceiling, the drum, and the dome. The shimmering mosaics of the transept, presumably dating from the 1140s and attributed to Byzantine artists, with an illustrated scene, along the north wall, of St. John in the desert and a landscape of Agnus Dei. Below this are five saints, the Greek fathers of the church, St. Gregory of Nissa, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom and St. Nicholas. The three central figures, St. Gregory, St. Basil, and St. John Chrysostom, are the Three Great Orthodox Church Fathers referred to as the Three Hierarchs, which originated fifty years earlier. Every composition is set within an ornamental frame, not dissimilar to that used in contemporaneous mosaic icons. The rest of the mosaics, dated to the 1160s or the 1170s, are executed in a cruder manner and feature Latin (rather than Greek) inscriptions. Probably a work of local craftsmen, these pieces are more narrative and illustrative than transcendental. A few mosaics have a secular character and represent oriental flora and fauna. This may be the only substantial passage of secular Byzantine mosaic extant today.

The structure is influenced by Fatimid art style, with the nave ceiling taking from Fatimid art through the use of muqarnas. The nave is similar to Islamic reception halls with the presence of the muqarnas vaulted ceiling and arches along the colonnade. There is also an indication of Kufic script in the Cappella Palatina, this however, is highly debated by scholars because the inscriptions were removed later. It is thought to be likely that these Kufic inscriptions were intended for the structure due to the presence of Kufic inscriptions in other structures built for or by King Roger II. The Cappella Palatina is also influenced by the Islamic style of having rectilinear patterns, uncommon to European art at the time. The hundreds of facets of the Muqarnas ceiling were painted, notably with many purely ornamental vegetal and zoomorphic designs but also with scenes of daily life and many subjects that have not yet been explained. Stylistically influenced by Egyptian Fatimid Art, these paintings are innovative in their more spatially aware representation of personages and of animals. Most muqarnas are made out of stucco or stone but the muqarnas in the Cappella Palatina are molded and carved with wood. There are arch shaped panels as the main construction and hidden panels that help center wood cuts for the small vaults in the muqarnas. The muqarnas has 5 horizontal tiers that allow a smooth transition from the ceiling to the walls of the nave. The ceiling is supported by horizontal cavetto wood moldings that touch the upper part of the windows. There are 8 point stars on the ceiling of the nave that are created with an overlay of two squares at a 45-degree angle. The muqarnas ceiling was built most likely after the mosaics of the nave ordered by William I.

Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator © Jose Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro/cc-by-sa-4.0 Wooden ceiling © Holger Uwe Schmitt/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Holger Uwe Schmitt/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Holger Uwe Schmitt/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Holger Uwe Schmitt/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Holger Uwe Schmitt/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Holger Uwe Schmitt/cc-by-sa-4.0
<
>
Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator © Jose Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro/cc-by-sa-4.0
The chapel combines harmoniously a variety of styles: the Norman architecture and door decor, the Arabic arches and ceiling designs and script adorning the roof, the Byzantine dome and mosaics. For instance, clusters of four eight-pointed stars, typical for Muslim design, are arranged on the ceiling so as to form a Christian cross. The Cappella Palatina is built along an east–west axis. On the west side resides the throne platform and on the east side is the sanctuary with the nave connecting these two sides, with domes over each side. Along the northern wall of the sanctuary is the royal balcony and the northern chapel, where the King would watch and listen to the liturgy on special feast days. Along the nave runs two rows of colonnades, with windows in between each colonnade. The chapel was decorated with gold, pearls, porphyry, silk and marble. The chapel has been considered a union of a Byzantine church sanctuary and a Western basilica nave. The sanctuary, is of an “Eastern” artistic nature, while the nave reflects “Western” influences.

The nave, constructed under Roger II, did not contain any Christian images. These were added later by Roger II’s successors, William I and William II. The nave’s ceiling consists of Arab, Greek and Latin inscriptions. The frame for the royal throne sets against the west wall of the nave. There are six steps leading up to where the throne would be, along with two heraldic lions in two roundels upon the spandrels over the throne frame gable. Part of the nave of the Cappella Palatina. The nave had different forms of decoration from the north and south to the east and west. Intricate lacing from the ceiling mold outline the arches of the nave in the north and South. These outlines are accompanied by oval medallions and cartouches.  In the East and West, the decoration is similar to the muqarnas ceiling but is missing some molding for the borders of the ceiling.

As an expression of Norman culture, St. Dionysius and St. Martin are represented in the sanctuary. Mosaics are of Byzantine culture in their composition and subjects. The apex of the dome consists of the Pantokrator, with rows of angels, prophets, evangelists and saints. The Byzantine motif ends abruptly with scenes from Christ’s life along the south wall of the southern transept arm, while the north wall consists of warrior saints.

Read more on Wikipedia Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale and Wikipedia Cappella Palatina (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




Recommended posts:

Share this post: (Please note data protection regulations before using buttons)

Theme Week Cyprus - Paphos

Theme Week Cyprus - Paphos

[caption id="attachment_150943" align="aligncenter" width="590"] © Anna Anichkova/cc-by-sa-3.0[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]Paphos is a coastal city in the southwest of Cyprus and the capital of Paphos District. In antiquity, two locations were called Paphos: Old Paphos and New Paphos. The currently inhabited city, New Paphos, lies on the Mediterranean coast, about 50 km (31.07 mi) west of Limassol (the biggest port on the island), which has an A6 highway connection. Paphos International Airport is the country's second-largest air...

[ read more ]

The Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City

The Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City

[caption id="attachment_26703" align="aligncenter" width="460"] © skyscraper.org[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]The Skyscraper Museum is an architecture museum located in Battery Park City in New York City and founded in 1996. As the name suggests, the museum focuses on high-rise buildings as "products of technology, objects of design, sites of construction, investments in real estate, and places of work and residence." Before moving to the current and permanent location in Battery Park City in 2004, the museum was a nomadic institu...

[ read more ]

Toulouse, the Pink City

Toulouse, the Pink City

[caption id="attachment_160192" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Toulouse Capitole © Benh LIEU SONG[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]Toulouse is a city in southwest France on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km (366 mi) away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. With 1,102,882 inhabitants as of Jan.1 2006, the Toulouse metropolitan area is the fourth-largest in France, after Paris (12 million), Lyon (1.8 million), Marseille (1.7 million). Toulouse is one of the bases of the European aerospace...

[ read more ]

Hialeah in Florida

Hialeah in Florida

[caption id="attachment_231600" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Taco Bell © flickr.com - Phillip Pessar/cc-by-2.0[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]Hialeah is a city in Miami-Dade County, Florida. With a population of 223,109 as of the 2020 census, Hialeah is the sixth-largest city in Florida. It is the second largest city by population in the Miami metropolitan area, which was home to an estimated 6,198,782 people at the 2018 census. It is located west-northwest of Miami, and is one of a few places in the county—others being Homest...

[ read more ]

New Providence, the most populated island of the Bahamas

New Providence, the most populated island of the Bahamas

[caption id="attachment_150986" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Pirates of Nassau Museum © JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD/cc-by-sa-3.0[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]New Providence is the most populous island in the Bahamas, containing more than 70% of the total population. It also houses the national capital city, Nassau. The island was originally under Spanish control following Christopher Columbus's discovery of the New World, but the Spanish government showed little interest in developing the island (and the Bahamas as a whole). Nassa...

[ read more ]

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland

[caption id="attachment_23542" align="alignleft" width="590"] Guitar Sculptures © Andrew Hitchcock/cc-by-2.0[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a museum located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. It is dedicated to archiving the history of some of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers and others who have, in some major way, influenced the music industry through the genre of rock music. The museum is part of the city's redeveloped North Coast Har...

[ read more ]

Barcelona Royal Shipyard

Barcelona Royal Shipyard

[caption id="attachment_234404" align="aligncenter" width="590"] © Lluis Ferrer[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]The Barcelona Royal Shipyard (Catalan: Drassanes Reials de Barcelona, Spanish: Atarazanas Reales de Barcelona) is a shipyard and former military building of Gothic architecture placed at the Port Vell area of the Port of Barcelona. Nowadays it houses the Barcelona Maritime Museum. Construction started during the 13th century under the rule of Peter III of Aragon. During excavations in 2012 it was discovered that in the late...

[ read more ]

Covid-19 - your unique chance

Covid-19 - your unique chance

[caption id="attachment_221800" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Covid-19 © Colin D. Funk, Craig Laferriere, and Ali Ardakani/cc-by-4.0[/caption]"If someone thinks that the corona vaccinations could alter his or her genes, then he/she/it should take advantage of this unique opportunity, because it will not repeat itself that quickly. This is their big chance, as things are looking pretty unpleasant for them so far." - Twitter At the same time, of course, one must also resolutely oppose the common conspiracy myth that unvaccinated people would allegedly be discriminated: This is not true...

[ read more ]

The Palestinian Museum in Birzeit

The Palestinian Museum in Birzeit

[caption id="attachment_230951" align="aligncenter" width="590"] The Palestinian Museum © I Love Falastin/cc-by-sa-4.0[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]The Palestinian Museum is a flagship project of the Welfare Association, a non-profit organization for developing humanitarian projects in Palestine. Representing the history and aspirations of the Palestinian people, the museum aims to discuss the past, present, and future of Palestine. The Museum in Birzeit (25 km north of Jerusalem) opened on 18 May 2016, despite not having any exhi...

[ read more ]

Osaka in Japan

Osaka in Japan

[caption id="attachment_223358" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Skyline towards Umeda © Ug/cc-by-sa-4.0[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]Osaka is a designated city in the Kansai region of Honshu in Japan. It is the capital and the most populous city in Osaka Prefecture, and the third most populous city in Japan, following Tokyo and Yokohama (both located in the Greater Tokyo Area and the Kantō region). With a population of 2.7 million in the 2020 census, it is also the largest component of the Keihanshin Metropolitan Area, the secon...

[ read more ]

Return to TopReturn to Top
Château of the Dukes of Bourbon © Lionel Allorge/cc-by-sa-3.0
Theme Week Auvergne – Montluçon

Montluçon (Occitan: Montleçon) is a commune in central France on the river Cher. It is the largest commune in the...

Robin Hood's Bay as seen from the shore © Kreuzschnabel/cc-by-sa-3.0
Robin Hood’s Bay on the Yorkshire Coast

Robin Hood's Bay is a village in North Yorkshire, England. It is 6 miles (10 km) south of Whitby and...

Town Hall © Pline/cc-by-sa-3.0
Theme Week Auvergne – Aurillac

Aurillac (Occitan: Orlhac) is the prefecture of the Cantal department, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France. The inhabitants of the...

Close