Thursday, July 8, 2010

Palazzo dei Normanni

Palazzo dei Normanni is a Palace that takes one’s breath away. It was started in the 9th century by the Emir of Palermo and extended in the 12th century by Ruggero II d’Altavilla and other Norman kings.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have access to all the floors and rooms since the Parliament was in session when we visited.


However, what we saw was really breathtaking. On the ground floor next to the impressive staircase we were greeted by a Chariot settled in a glass casing. It reminded me of all the stories I’ve read about the aristocracy. It was really amazing with its wondrous craftsmanship.

On the second floor was the Capella Palatina. It represents one of the highest examples of coexistence of different cultures, religions and philosophies. Ruggero II (or Roger II) employed Latin, Byzantine, Jewish and Arabic craftsmen for its construction. The wonderful mosaics, the intricately carved wooden roof, elaborately fretted and painted, and the marble incrustation of the lower part of the walls and the floor are incredible and truly unique. 

On the ground floor we visited the gallery that hosted an exhibition by contemporary Italian artists. The Gallery is placed in the space that running through a narrow corridor becomes the famous Dungeon that runs underneath the great courtyard. Its construction resembling a labyrinth is interesting leading to the barren, stone-walled, square-shaped cells.

The corridors on the other side house the exhibition cases displaying, for the first time, the liturgical vestments of Capella Palatina, known for their precious gold and silver brocades. 

Mitra (head piece) and a braided belt.

Liturgical trousers.

Capes and cloaks.

The corridors lead to the church Santa Maria delle Grazie, also called Inferior Church because it is exactly underneath the Palatina. I couldn’t describe the feeling once inside. We happened to be all alone, left to ourselves to freely explore every corner.

The solitude, quietness and the beauty of the church inside were priceless and the marble altar along with the sculptures remarkable. Truly adding to the overall, unforgettable experience.

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