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PALATINE CHAPEL   versione testuale

Hidden within its walls is a breathtaking 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.

The Chapel was consecrated on Palm Sunday, 28 April, 1140 representing in its complex the greatest expression of cultural syncretism; Islamic, Byzantine and Western styles coexist, making the chapel the finest example of Mediterranean craftsmanship in Norman Sicily. The chapel is one of the best preserved Medieval monuments: the marble decoration in opus sectile, marble floor inlay, of the floors and walls, the Byzantine mosaics of the presbytery and the aisles, the Islamic paintings of the muqarnas (decorative technique “honeycomb” vaults used in Islamic architecture) and the ancient configuration of its interior and the small dome of the central aisle are all well preserved, almost unchanged by time. The exquisite mosaics depicting biblical figures, as well as, geometric shapes, animals, dancers and scenes of life in an Islamic court, are testimony to the open mindedness and multi-ethnicity that existed in the Court of the age.

 ph Mario Dragotto


Dominating in all His glorious splendour is Christ Pantocrator, the “Ruler of All”, who, as the holder of the double divine and human nature wears the red tunic, colour of divinity, and the blue cloak, symbol of humanity. Thanks to Christ, divinity is covered with humanity. Christ intimidates silence with his right hand through the characteristic Byzantine gesture (thumb and ring finger together) while the left one holds the book of the Gospels, opened on the page by John 8.12, where you can read in Greek and in Latin: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Before leaving the palace walls, take the time to visit the rest of this monumental complex: the Baroque State Chambers of the Sicilian Assembly, the Astronomical Observatory and its museum, as well as, one of the many art exhibitions that are often held in Sala Duca di Montalto.