Palazzo dei Normanni

    By turns a Carthaginian, Roman and Byzantine fortress, this was for some time the castle of the Arab emirs, before they built themselves a new fortified citadel (Al-Halisān or Kalsa) near the harbour. The old complex of buildings was restructured and extended by the Siculo-Norman kings, who added new towers and the splendid Palatine Chapel (see separate heading).
The 12th-century Andalusian Arab chronicler and traveller Ibn Jubair wrote enthusiastically about this royal palace, describing it as a fortified area with a wealth of towers, pavilions, reception rooms and delightful gardens. Despite the considerable alterations made during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, there is still much that remains of the Norman palace, in particular the Palatine Chapel and the so-called Gjoaria (jewel tower). The latter is a marriage of Norman keep and Arab-Byzantine tower. Internally, it is sub-divided vertically by two squares of arches (see notes on churches of the same period), creating two lofty rooms with fine ceilings (Sala dei Venti and Sala degli Armigeri) and walkways round the perimeter. The load is perfectly spread by continuous foundations similar to inverted beams. It is amazing to think that the cellular design of this constructional system anticipates some of the technical solutions adopted by modern architects. In other rooms there are the remains of exquisite mosaic work, showing that the palace must have been lavishly decorated. The photographs show the Torre Pisana, the Sala dei Venti with its four arches, and the mosaics in the Sala di Re Ruggiero. The palace of the Norman kings was described by a number of medieval chroniclers, including Idrisi, U. Falcando, R. Salernitano and Ibn Jubair.

Vittorio Noto

- "Palazzo dei Normanni" A.R.S., Palermo, 1991
- R. La Duca, "Il Palazzo dei Normanni", Palermo, 1997
- V. Noto, "La tradizione dei giardini reali annessi al Palazzo dei Normanni", Palermo, 1999

Melo Minnella, Palermo