Palermo’s Oasis of Tranquility

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My favorite Norman, King Roger II, commissioned Palermo’s San Giovanni degli Eremiti (Saint John of the Hermits) in 1130. Completed in 1148, its red domes rise above a garden of citrus trees, roses, fichi d’india, jasmine, and other exotic plants. On Monday afternoon, we wandered through the pathways and cloister of this oasis of tranquility in Palermo’s historic center. The hermitage was once flanked by the Kemonia River, a torrent that now runs underground and has all but dried up. There is evidence that on its site was once a pagan building, a Gregorian monastery (6th century AD), and then an Islamic building (in the 11th century AD). Last July, it became part of the Arab-Norman UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Palermo.

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