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DISCOVERING THE UNESCO ARAB-NORMAN HERITAGE SITES   versione testuale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before beginning your tour if you want to read the Statement of outstanding value and the UNESCO criteria under which the nine monuments were registered on the WHL click here.

As you can see it is a "combination of sublime artistic value" which has enchanted all the tourists for centuries. For instance in 1885 Guy de Maupassant, a French travel writer wrote a book "Travelling in Sicily" where there is written:

"Sicily has had the luck of having been occupied by fecund peoples, at one time or another, coming at times from the North and others from the South, who have enriched its territory with an infinite variety of works in which the most varied influxes seductively and unexpectedly fuse. A special art arose, unknown to anywhere else in the world, in which the Arab influence dominates, amidst recollections of Greece, even Egypt; and the severe Gothic style, introduced by the Normans, is mitigated by the admirable alchemy of the Byzantine decoration."

The amazing thing about Palermo and its surrounding territory is its authenticity, its variety and uniqueness; a History and Art book whose pages are opened simultaneously to hundreds of years of history and change. An authentic melting pot. It is this that has drawn visitors to its shores and continues to do so. Today, travellers like you, are arriving in this city and are able to experience the very same marvel as those travellers in the past.

So let’s set off on our quest, the trail of the nine exquisite sites that you need not be a connoisseur to appreciate.

 

THE ROYAL PALACE AND PALATINE CHAPEL  (1*)
 

"One of the most beautiful treasures that we have in Italy and little known to the Italians. The beauty of the Palatine Chapel will take your breath away ... you could spend an entire day there just admiring it"

A tourist’s comment, Trip - Advisor, 2016.

 

ROYAL PALACE

The Palace (11th - 12th century) stands regally, yet austerely, against a blue Sicilian sky on a pre-existing Punic, Roman, Byzantine, then Islamic site (to be continued ...)

 

 ph Enzo Ferreri

 

PALATINE CHAPEL

Crowned as the most beautiful church in Italy by the British Daily Telegraph in 2016, since it was classified as the 14th church among the beautiful 23 churches: the only Italian church in the list. Hidden within its walls is a breath taking jewel, the Palatine Chapel, built on top of the original chapel and ‘donjon’ which was then designated as its crypt. It was dedicated to St. Peter the apostle, and built as a place of worship for the royal  family (to be continued)


ph Mario Dragotto 

"The most beautiful church in the world, the most surprising religious jewel ever dreamt up by the human mind [...]",

Guy de Maupassant,1885

 

 

THE CHURCH OF SAN GIOVANNI DEGLI EREMITI (2*)

"This small group of church, cloister and a garden, is reminiscent of the beauty of a cameo! Everything is small and refined in its semplicity. Furthermore, the garden is extremely rich in species and its gardener, perhaps having sensed our interest, spontaneously explained a lot of things to us! " 

     A tourist’s comment, Trip - Advisor 2016.

Just a few steps away from the Royal Palace is the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, in via Benedettini, built by Roger II, between 1130 and 1148 on a site that had from Pagan times been used as a place of worship, where there used to be an ancient monastery and during the Arab domination, a mosque.  (to be continued...)

 ph Enzo Ferreri                                                                                                                                                             

A Norman church close to the royal palace and Porta Castro ... nestling in a hollow, completely Eastern, with its five domes, could easily be set in Baghdad or Damascus. Next to it a Gothic bell tower with a loggia in four orders surmounted by another dome, a singular Arab style adaptation of a Christian tradition ...

F. Elliot, Diary of an Idle Woman in Sicily (1881)

 

 

PALERMO CATHEDRAL (5*)

 

"I would advise you to visit it in the evening, walking if possible from Corso Vittorio Emanuele, having first walked through Porta Nuova. The spectacle that presents itself will be majestic and breath taking, you will find it hard to take in its beauty all at once and it would be impossible. You’ll see that only gradually can you start to take in its details ..."

                                                                                                                                                      A tourist’s comment, Trip - Advisor 2016

Just strolling down Corso Vittorio Emanuele you cannot help but gasp, as before your eyes Palermo Cathedral, a beautiful jewel, appears; a glorious hotch-potch of architectural styles revealing the history of its varied past.(to be continued...)

 Ph enzo ferreri

 

******

 
Walk back out into the sunshine continuing on down Corso Vittorio Emanuele to the “Quattro Canti”. On the way to the Arab-Norman masterpieces, the Martorana and San Cataldo, you can see some sites in various styles which deserve your time. Find them out. Not far from the Cathedral on the right you can see the eighteenth century Oratory of SS. Salvatore, a wonderful Baroque jewel by the architect Paolo Amato. Walking along you can admire Piazza Bologni with the statue of Charles V and finally going on down you will be fascinated by the seventeenth century “Teatro del Sole” or the Quattro Canti. You cannot help but be fascinated by the whole beauty, if you look all around you, at a cross roads in which the historic heart of the city is displayed. Click here: a brief description of square can help you understand better. The Baroque style flourished also in this area, so before turning right into via Maqueda it is worth visiting the Church of San Giuseppe dei Teatini. Spectacular, isn't it? Now turn right into via Maqueda, you cannot help but be astonished and fascinated by the view of the fifteenth century Piazza Pretoria or Piazza della Vergogna on your left, having admired the Fontana Pretoria, nick-named the Square of Shame. Do you need some information? Click here. You have two opportunities now. You can visit Palazzo Pretorio (the Town Hall) or continue your stroll down Piazza Bellini and find out the two churches of the Arab-Norman tour.

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THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DELL'AMMIRAGLIO (3*)

"... A true masterpiece ... As soon as you walk in, you are struck by a splendid sensation of warmth, peace and majesty at the same time. The play of colour, some of the vaulted ceilings are painted with starry skies, the beautiful altar, the play of light, and the gold mosaics make this a magical sanctuary. "

A tourist’s comment, Trip - Advisor 2016

 

 The Church of Saint Mary of the Admiral, or "La Martorana", along with the small church of San Cataldo, dominates Bellini Square. Built in 1145 by George of Antioch, Roger II's admiral, the church takes its present name from the adjacent monastery founded in 1193 by Eloisa Martorana (to be continued...)

 ph Enzo Ferreri

 

 "The most beautiful monument in the world"

 Ibn Jubair, a traveller and an Arab – Andalusian poet 1184

      

                                                                                                                          

 

THE CHURCH OF SAN CATALDO (4*)

"A jewel that appears all of a sudden in Piazza Bellini, behind the Town Hall, elevated above roadlevel and next to the not to be missed Martorana ... Its red, Arab domes are a distinctive sign and reminiscent of corners of Istanbul ... Its interior is simple and embracing. The vegetation around is an oasis of peace ... Not to be missed, especially at sunset, after a hot day ... "

 

A tourist’s comment, Trip Advisor 2016.

The small church of San Cataldo, elevated above road level, is an important work of art. Literally and figuratively it is on a high pedestal for its visitors and its peculiarities is frequently used as a monumental image of Palermo‘s architecture patrimony. (to be continued...)

 ph enzo ferreri

 

******

By now if it is too early for a drink and you still like going to see art sites you can visit the baroque church of Jesus, or "Casa Professa", and the eighteenth century Palazzo Comitini, our seat, that is “Città Metropolitana di Palermo”, both not far from you. You will probably be thinking of popping back to the hotel to freshen up for the evening. Before coming back you can be drawn to spending one hour or two sitting at a table with a Martini drink, a glass of a delicious Sicilian wine or even of beer nibbling one of the delicious arrays of snacks served or set out buffet style in one of street bars, frequented daily by "happy hour lovers" around 06.00 / 07.00 pm. It might be a good moment for mulling over the day's highlights and planning the evening ahead and the following visits.

******
 

PALAZZO DELLA ZISA (6*)

"Highly recommended to anyone who organizes trips as it is little known ... a summer residence used by the Norman king ... [it] is an architectural jewel and has an airconditioning system designed according to the Arab model amidst fountains that [would have] freshened the entire palace along with its ventilation system ..."

A tourist’s comment, Trip Advisor 2016 

Just a short bus ride (no. 124) away from Piazza Politeama is the beautiful Palace of the Zisa (Arabic, al-Aziz, “the Splendid one”) which was founded by King William I, but completed under the reign of William II in 1190 ca. The castle, as it is commonly called, is a striking example of palatial architecture ifiqena.(to be continued...)

ph Enzo Ferreri
 

 

 

THE ADMIRAL’S BRIDGE (7*)

 

"Casually come across ... when we were already in our car heading for the motorway on the way home having visited Palermo for a few days; pulled on the brakes and went to admire it more closely. Sublime fascination ..."

 

A tourist’s comment, Trip -Advisor 2016.

The Admiral's bridge was built in 1132 ca. on the orders of George of Antioch, Roger II's Grand Admiral and it is considered one of the greatest achievements of medieval engineering in the Mediterranean area (to be continued...)

 ph Enzo Ferreri

 

rapidly covering quite a long tract, but at the Admiral’s bridge we came up against ferocious resistance …” 

 
  Cesare Abba (one of Garibaldi’s men), in May, 1860.

 


 ******

After completing the tour of the "UNESCO monuments" of Palermo, not far from the Admiral's bridge (one bus stop after the Scaffa Square), the cosy San Giovanni dei Lebbrosi (of lepers) Church is another gem, considered one of the Norman style oldest medieval buildings in Palermo, so it is worth being visited . The monument is among those proposed as part of the monumental complex on the UNESCO World Heritage List, but at the end it was not accepted.

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MONREAL CATHEDRAL (9*)
 

"As soon as you walk through the small lateral doorway you are left agog. Ecstacy and marvel. You cannot believe all that glistens is real gold, yet it is! Beautiful Monreale! "

A tourist’s comment, Trip -Advisor 2016

Just a short bus ride (no. 389) away from Piazza Indipendenza is Monreale. The town owes its fame to its Duomo, one of the most solemn architectural wonders of the medieval world. (to be continued)

 ph Enzo Ferreri

 

THE CLOISTER

The adjoining cathedral cloister is an extraordinary example of this kind of construction reminiscent, in spirit and atmosphere, of the noble Islamic estates. (to be continued)

 ph Enzo Ferreri

 

"Those who prefer the cloisters go for a walk here; forget any other one seen before ... The marvellous Monreale Cloister arises such a feeling of grace that we would like to stay indefinitely here "

Guy de Maupassant,1885

 

CEFALÙ  CATHEDRAL (8*)
 

"Arriving in the square and accidentally meeting up with this great Byzantine and Arab-Norman wonder, which rises from that space and leaves you breathless. Upon entering, you will be dazzled by the splendour of the central apse mosaic, in which the huge Christ Pantocrator on the golden background gold dominates the scene. A Sicilian Wonder !!!

Comment of a tourist on Trip - Advisor 2016

 

About an hour from Palermo, reachable by train or by bus, there is a place which contains memories of ancient Greece, the European Middle Ages and Byzantine mosaics. (to be continued)

ph Mario Dragotto