The Palm for Paradise

These images, found in Palermo’s Palatine Chapel (and importantly, also at the Cathedral of Monreale) depict palm trees. Palm trees are symbolic of different things: In Christianity, palm branches are attributed to the “victory of the spirit over the flesh” (Wikipedia); hence why many martyrs are depicted holding palm branches. We also need to consider…

Santa Rosalia Purifies the Evils

“Il festivo,” which takes place on the evening of July 14, is a big street party that unifies Palermo’s citizens through a procession that symbolically purifies the city from the evils that have long afflicted it. For this annual celebration, each year Palermo commissions a new statue to represent its patron saint, Santa Rosalia. Like…

Persia in Palermo

Illustrating the Persian-Middle Eastern influences on Arab-Norman architecture, the mosaic designs of the Sala di Re Ruggero (King Roger’s Salon) inside Palermo’s Royal Palace (Palazzo dei Normanni) are splendid. Unlike their siblings in the Cappella Palatina (just downstairs in the palace), these mosaic designs are secular in nature, depicting hunting and natural scenes featuring trees,…

The Royal Palace of Palermo

The Royal Palace in Palermo, better known as il Palazzo dei Normanni, is today the seat of Sicily’s regional parliament. However, since the middle of the 16th century, it was the seat of the Spanish viceroys and then the Bourbons who built it to its (more or less) current state. Its hodgepodge of architectural styles…

Dizzying Steps

Norman king Roger II established the Cappella Palatina in 1130. The chapel, located inside Palermo’s Palazzo dei Normanni, is in and of itself a treasure chest of extraordinary mosaics. This is one example, the dizzying, inlaid stone and marble floors.

Watch Your Step

Every inch of the Cappella Palatina is embellished with intricate mosaics of inlaid marble, colorful stones, and golden glass tiles. This floor detail illustrates the multi-cultural mix (Norman, Arab, Greek, and Byzantine) that existed during Roger II’s 12th-century rule, when the Palazzo dei Normanni’s chapel was built.

Curious Gate

Palermo’s Porta Nuova (or New Gate), is adjacent to the Palazzo dei Normanni and at the south end of the city’s principal north-south boulevard, Corso Vittorio Emanuele. When entering Palermo from the south (i.e., by land versus by sea), it welcomes you with its four atlases depicting Moors–two with their arms amputated and two with…