Palermo Cathedral


Palermo Cathedral is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Palermo, located in Palermo, Sicily, southern Italy. It is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. As an architectural complex, it is characterized by the presence of different styles, due to a long history of additions, alterations and restorations, the last of which occurred in the 18th century.

The church was erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil (or Walter of the Mill), the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and King William II’s minister, on the area of an earlier Byzantine basilica. By all accounts this earlier church was founded by St. Gregory and was later turned into a mosque by the Saracens after their conquest of the city in the 9th century. Ophamil is buried in a sarcophagus in the church’s crypt. The medieval edifice had a basilica plan with three apses, of which only some minor architectural elements survive today.

The upper orders of the corner towers were built between the 14th and the 15th centuries, while in the early Renaissance period the southern porch was added. The present neoclassical appearance dates from the work carried out over the two decades 1781 to 1801, and supervised by Ferdinando Fuga. During this period the great retable by Gagini, decorated with statues, friezes and reliefs, was destroyed and the sculptures moved to different parts of the basilica. Also by Fuga are the great dome emerging from the main body of the building, and the smaller domes covering the aisles’ ceilings.

The main façade is on the Western side, on the current Via Bonello, and has the appearance set in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is flanked by two towers and has a Gothic portal surmounted by a niche with a precious 15th-century Madonna. Two lintelled ogival arcades, stepping over the street, connect the façade to the bell tower in the front, annexed to the Archbishops Palace. This has a squared appearance adorned in the upper part by a fine crown of smaller belfries and small arcades.

The right side has outstretching turrets and a wide portico (the current entrance) in Gothic-Catalan style, with three arcades, erected around 1465 and opening to the square. The first column on the left belonged to the original basilica and the subsequent mosque, as testified by the Qur’an verse carved on it. The carved portal of this entrance was executed in the period 1426 to 1430 by Antonio Gambara, while the magnificent wooden leaves are by Francesco Miranda (1432). The mosaic portraying the Madonna is from the 13th century, while the two monuments on the walls, works of the early 18th century, represents King Charles III of Bourbon and Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia, the latter of which was crowned here with his wife Anne Marie d’Orléans in December 1713.


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Built in 1143 at the behest of George of Antioch, Admiral of Roger II, the St. Mary’s church is also known as the “Martorana” because it was given in 1433 by King Alfonso of Aragon to the Benedictine monks of the nearby convent He founded by the noblewoman Eloisa Martorana. Despite the changes made in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (the Baroque façade is one example), this charming sacred building preserves its original Arab-Norman style as shown by the square body of the same topped by a hemispherical dome, and the bell tower open from arches and three rows of large windows. The inside of the church at the top of the walls, in the soffits and magnificent Byzantine mosaics in the dome considered the oldest in Sicily. central point of the whole mosaic decoration is the image of Christ Pantocrator surrounded by archangels, apostles, saints and prophets. Complete the cycle the mosaics with the Nativity of Jesus, Mary’s Transit, the Annunciation and the Presentation in the Temple.

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The Quattro Canti represent the true center of Palermo. It is a square octagonal Vagliena Square, formed by the intersection of Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda. The 4 sides are places 4 buildings crowned with statues, fountains and columns, representing 4 districts of Palermo: Albergheria, Head, La Loggia, Kalsa. At the center of each of these buildings are the four statues that represent those that once were the patron saints of the city: Cristina, Ninfa, Oliva and Agata.

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Unmissable experience: a ride in one of the markets of Palermo. Here time has truly stopped and has retained the charm of a culture that has left unmistakable signs.

Fruits and vegetables grown in a land kissed by the sun all year round, genuine fragrances and flavors of the past, such as those rolls stuffed with fried eggplant, croquettes, fritters and sfincione. Turn to the market aimlessly, take a photo to “vridumaro” (greengrocer) or “carnezziere” (butcher).

To do this blast from the past you can choose between the Vucciria (between Via Roma and Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the Quattro Canti), the nearby market of Il Capo (along Via Carini and Via Beati Paoli), the characteristic Ballarò (near the station central square professed House to the ramparts of course Tukory towards Porta S. Agata) and Old village (near the port, being Scinà between Sturzo and Piazza Ucciardone) open all night, a meeting place for lovers of the small hours .

Four things to do to relive an ancient Palermo, which never loses its appeal.

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The Palazzo dei Normanni (in English, Palace of the Normans) or Royal Palace of Palermo is a palace in Palermo, Italy. It was the seat of the Kings of Sicily during the Norman domination and served afterwards as the main seat of power for the subsequent rulers of Sicily. Seat of the Sicilian Parliament, today it is the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The building is the oldest royal residence in Europe, the home of the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily and imperial seat with Frederick II and Conrad IV.
The palace stands in what is the highest point of the ancient centre of the city, just above the first Punic settlements, whose remains can still be found in the basement.

The first building, the al-Qasr (in Arabic, castle or palace) is believed to have been started in the 9th century by the Emir of Palermo. Parts of this early building are still visible in the foundations and in the basements, where typical Arabian vaults are present. After the Normans conquered Sicily in 1072 (just 6 years after they conquered England) and established Palermo as the capital of the new Kingdom of Sicily, the palace was chosen as the main residence of the kings. The Norman kings transformed the former Arabian palace into a multifunctional complex with both administrative and residential aims. All the buildings were linked to each other via arcades and enclosed by gardens, designed by the best gardeners of the middle east. In 1132 King Roger II added the famous Cappella Palatina to the complex, making it the focus of the palace.

During the reign of the Swabian emperors, the palace maintained its administrative functions, and was the centre of the Sicilian School of poetry, but was seldom used as permanent seat of power, especially during the reign of Frederick II.

The Angevin and Aragonese kings preferred other seats. The palace returned to an important administrative role in the second half of the sixteenth century, when the Spanish governors chose it as their official residence, carrying out important reconstructions, aimed at their representative needs and their military ones, with the creation of a system of bastions.

The Bourbons built additional reception rooms (la Sala Rossa, la Sala Gialla e la Sala Verde) and reconstructed the Sala d’Ercole, named for its frescos depicted the mythological hero, Hercules.

From 1946, the palace was the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The west wing (with the Porta Nuova) was assigned to the Italian Army and is the seat of the Southern Military Region.

During the sixties, it received comprehensive restorations under the direction of Rosario La Duca.

The palace is also the seat of the Astronomical Observatory of Palermo.

The palace contains the Cappella Palatina, by far the best example of the so-called Arab-Norman-Byzantine style that prevailed in the 12th-century Sicily. The wonderful mosaics, the wooden roof, elaborately fretted and painted, and the marble incrustation of the lower part of the walls and the floor are very fine. Of the palace itself the greater part was rebuilt and added in Aragonese times, but there are some other parts of Roger’s work left, specially the hall called Sala Normanna.

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