The Palatine Chapel: the treasure inside the Palace of the Normans

When one enters the Palatine Chapel, housed in the famous Palace of the Normans, one has the feeling of being in another world where a suffused atmosphere reigns and... gold! The architecture, commissioned by Roger II who first stayed in the palace, is a union of East and West and the opulent decorations symbolise the king's power. Be enchanted by the colourful mosaics and admire the beauty of this chapel.

Palace of the Normans

- © Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock

A palace steeped in history: the Palazzo dei Normanni

Together with Palermo Cathedral and the cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale, the Palace of the Normans, also known as the Royal Palace, is part of theArab-Norman itinerary classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the former home of the Norman kings when they conquered Sicily from Arab rule in 1072. It has very ancient roots if one thinks that it was the base for Phoenician trade and became a real fortress at that time, but following Greek, Roman and Byzantine dominations there was no more news until the conquest by the Arabs. The Palace of the Normans as it is known today owes its name to the Norman King Roger II who took the city from Arab rule by having himself crowned the first king of Sicily in this very palace in 1130.

Palace of the Normans

- © manasesistvan / Shutterstock

As a result of numerous destructions and additions, the present-day Palazzo dei Normanni acquired a different appearance from the original one and to this day one cannot even imagine what it looked like in the past. After the Norman rule, Frederick II of Swabia made the palace his residence and it is to him that we owe the birth of the Scuola Poetica Siciliana, also recognised by Dante and Petrarch. From fortress to sovereign residence, today it is the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly.

Interior of the Palace of the Normans

- © Jerome LABOUYRIE / Shutterstock

The Palatine Chapel: a chapel made of gold

The Palace of the Normans is also known for the Palatine Chapel on the first floor, commissioned by Roger II himself as a private chapel for the royal family. It is a crossroads of two different cultures, East and West, and many elements bear witness to this: from the Byzantine gold mosaics to the Arabic, Greek and Latin inscriptions. Although the term may suggest a small structure, it is instead the size of a church and is one of the most beautiful in Palermo. The French writer Guy de Maupassant described it as 'the most beautiful in the world, the most beautiful religious jewel guarded by human thought and executed by a master hand'.

Interior of the Palatine Chapel

- © trabantos / Shutterstock

The chapel is the result of the Norman kings' desire to restore the Christian religion while drawing on Muslim decoration as it was considered lavish and worthy of a king.

The various mosaics depict biblical scenes and each element has a meaning: the presbytery is square in shape as the four elements of the earth, in the dome it is possible to glimpse the shape of an octagon symbolising the resurrection and universal judgement with the figure of the Supreme Christ surrounded by angels and archangels.

Byzantine mosaic

- © Isogood_patrick / Shutterstock

Upon entering, one cannot fail to notice another Byzantine mosaic depicting the four evangelists and the prophets with Christ Pantocrator, or the Lord of Creation, blessing the faithful in the Greek manner, that is, with the thumb of the right hand touching the ring finger as if to indicate the allegory of the human and divine nature of Christ. Below the figure of Christ, there is the Madonna, which does not date back to the 12th century, but is Baroque in style.

Palatine Chapel Mosaic

- © Steve Barze / Shutterstock

📍Address: Piazza del Parlamento, 1, 90134 Palermo

Opening hours: The Norman Palace and the Palatine Chapel are open Monday to Saturday from 8:30am to 4:30pm; Sundays and public holidays from 8:30am to 12:30pm.

👉 More information on the official website

👉 The ticket includes access to the Palatine Chapel, the Royal Gardens and the Archaeological Area.

👛 The cost of the ticket varies according to the day: Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays the price is €19; Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays the price is €15.50. There are also reduced fares for the over-65s, 14-17 year olds, and young people from the European Union aged between 18 and 25. Free for children and young people up to 13 years of age.

👉 It is also possible to hire audio guides at an additional cost of €5.

👉 You can buy your ticket online here

by Val HANCOCK
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