The Cappella Palatina served as the royal chapel for the Sicilian Norman sovereignty. King Roger II commissioned this place of worship in 1132, however it wasn't until 1140 that it was consecrated to Saint Peter. Housed on the ground floor at the center of the eleventh century Norman Palace (also known as the Palazzo Reale) in the heart of Palermo, this small chapel exhibits an extraordinary convergence of Muslim and Byzantine stylistic influence, typical of Roger's culturally diverse court.
It adheres to a typological basilica plan, with three apses and a central nave flanked by two aisles separated by colonnades that support six shallow pointed arches, three on each side. The sanctuary once housed a balcony to its north, which afforded the king a view of the religious services below. Opposite and to the west, the colonnaded nave creates a procession path leading up to a low-positioned stage where the king would have received and greeted guests or courtiers, much like the audience or reception hall often found in earlier and contemporaneous palaces in the Islamic world.
Glorious in its decoration and detail throughout, this chapel displays a remarkable painted wooden muqarnas ceiling over the nave with the surrounding surfaces covered in brilliant mosaics depicting scenes from the Bible. The floor and lower walls are finished with marble mosaics in intricate and complex geometric forms. A depiction of Christ Pantocrator sits in the middle of eight windows carved into the dome in the chapel's sanctuary.
Ahmad, Aziz. 1975. A History of Islamic Sicily. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Tomasi, Gioacchino Lanza and Zalapi, Angheli. 1998. Palaces of Sicily. New York: Rizzoli, 32-34.
Tronzo, William. 1997. The Cultures of His Kingdom, Roger II and the Cappella Palatina in Palermo. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.