The Palatine Chapel in the Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo is one site you should not miss.
When the first of the Norman rulers, Roger II came to power, he restored the palace, originally built in the 9th century for the Arab emirs, and built the Palantine Chapel.
Though it was finished in 1140, the decoration of the interior took a lot longer. The fabulous mosaics were finished at varying times. Over the years, and with successive rulers, the chapel has been restored and the mosaics renewed, the latest being the mosaics outside the chapel which are 19th century
Inside, fabulous mosaics, a painted honeycomb wooden roof and marble decoration on the lower walls show the mix of the Arab-Norman-Byzantine style of the 12th century
The large mosaic icons of the central apse and cupola (dome) both represent Christ the Pantocrator
In the main apse, Christ appears above the Virgin Mary with St Peter and St Paul in the side apses
Whilst in the cupola of the sanctuary, Christ appears with angels, archangels and prophets with the Apostles in the four corners
The nave mosaics depict scenes from the lives of St Peter and St Paul as well as scenes from the Old Testament
In the nave stands a 12th-century, fifteen foot high, Paschal candelabra carved with figures, wild animals, and acanthus leaves.
Today, the Palazzo dei Normanni is the seat of Sicily’s regional govenment
The Appartamenti Reali (Royal Apartments) are on the second floor. Even though the Palazzo was rebuilt in Spanish times, the Sala di Ruggerio (Roger’s Hall) remains covered with mosaics depicting hunting and animal scenes as it did in Roger’s day
The Sala di Ercole (Hall of Hercules), where the Sicilian Parliament now sits, is just as it was when used in the Middle Ages.
This floor is only open on Monday and Friday when Parliament does not meet.
Check the opening hours before you visit
On the walk back, you will pass the Cathedral of Palermo. As a result of additions, alterations and renovations over the years, this 12th century Duomo now incorporates many different architectural styles.
Via Principe di Belmonte is a pretty street, closed to traffic with flower vendors,bars and restaurants spilling into the centre. We were here for dinner at Gigi Mangia but as Caffe Spinnato was over the road, we stopped for a quick aperitivo
On a beautiful night, sitting outside was the place to be. The restaurant service was perfect and the food matched.
Via Principe di Belmonte, 104d
Tel: +39 091 587651