Arts, architecture, culture in Norman Italy


The extraordinary production of mosaics in Norman Sicily took place within a period of just fifty years, from 1140 to c. 1190. It originated with the advent of the Byzantine figurative style in Sicily, through artists who arrived on the island in successive waves, working to commission by the Hautevilles.

In the church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (St Mary of the Admiral, the Martorana), at Palermo (1143 and 1151), among other representations we find two dedicatory panels depicting Christ crowning Roger king, and Admiral George of Antioch prostrate before the Virgin Mary.

At the Capella Palatina in Palermo, the dominant feature is the well-known figure of Christ Pantocrator. Through erudite quotations restored in inscriptions, King Roger names himself as having commissioned the chapel. One recent theory presents the Capella Palatina as being the room used for functions of representation of the sovereign.

Cefalý cathedral was Rogerís favourite, and his affection for it is recorded in a series of hexameters in the mosaic, in which he claims to be the structor of the building. This is an extremely Byzantine type of representation.

Monreale cathedral houses a majestic cycle of mosaics commissioned by William II. Monreale itself seems to be an urbs regia (royal city) combining the functions of cathedral and dynastic mausoleum


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