Itinerary of the Arab-Norman Palermo: Unesco celebrates the Sicilian capital city

Arab-Norman Palermo itinerary


Two and a half centuries of Arab rule (from 827 BC at the end of the Eleventh century) gave magnificent palaces, mosques, minarets, and gardens to the city of Palermo. Then, the Normans took possession of this splendour. Today, the heritages of these two cultures are intertwined and indistinguishable. Creating the so-called Arab-Norman style. To discover with this itinerary.

An itinerary, divided into three parts, so unique that Unesco declared it World Heritage.


First part: Palermo

  • Palazzo Reale o dei Normanni. Built in the Tenth century by the Arab Emirs, the Norman kings made it a palace of exceptional sumptuousness.
  • Cappella Palatina. A three-naves basilica built in Palazzo dei Normanni. The most spectacular elements of the Cappella Palatina are its gold and bronze colours.
  • Cattedrale. The cattedrale metropolitana della Santa Vergine Maria Assunta was built on the place where there was a large mosque.
  • Chiesa di San Giovanni degli Eremiti. It is located in the old town centre, near the Palazzo dei Normanni. This church is famous for its red domes.
  • Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio o della Martorana. One of the best places to visit during any holiday in Palermo. In this church, although the influences of the Norman style are evident, the predominant elements are Byzantine and Baroque.
  • Chiesa di San Cataldo. In Piazza Bellini, it is a temple where the Islamic influence is particularly evident. Even the church of San Cataldo has red domes.
  • Castello della Zisa. Even in this case, the Islamic origin is evident. Stereometry and symmetry of Zisa castle are practically perfect and make it an architectural jewel.
  • Ponte dell’Ammiraglio. Built between 1130 and 1140, the bridge is located where Oreto river flowed before being diverted. It consists of two ramps resting on five large arches and four smaller arches.


Second part: Monreale

  • Duomo. Built from 1174 by king William II of Sicily, presents all the characteristics of Norman churches: the most beautiful elements are the two towers at the sides of the facade, the colonnade with the bronze portal, the interior walls with beautiful polychrome mosaics.
  • Chiostro. Belonging to the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria la Nuova, also it was built in 1174 by king William II.


Third part: Cefalù

  • Cattedrale. It was founded in 1131 by king Roger II of Sicily. The construction proceeded slowly and remained unfinished. Despite this, today is one of the greatest testimonies of the Twelfth century Sicilian architecture.
  • Chiostro. The entrance is a door in the left nave of the cathedral. Built in the Twelfth century, it is a squared cloister surrounded by a colonnade.


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