The Arab-Norman itinerary interests the whole area of Palermo and its surroundings, articulated through a series of key-spots: Royal Palace, also called “The Norman Palace”, the Palatine Chapel connected to it, Palermo Cathedral, St. John of the Hermits Church, St. Cataldo Church, the Martorana Church, Zisa Palace, Ponte dell’Ammiraglio, Monreale Cathedral and Cefalù Cathedral.
ROYAL PALACE:The Norman palace was a multifunctional building and a symbol of the civic power of the monarchy. It was built on the highest part of the city over the pre-existing remains of Punic, Roman, Byzantine and Arab structures which defended the city walls and gates. It was named the “Palatium Novus” to distinguish it from the “Vetus” castle near the sea, which had a more specifically military function. It shows how the Norman sovereigns wished to bring together in the fortified citadel of Galca all the activities linked to the exercise of their power, while the Arabs had previously situated them near the harbour in the Kalsa. The original palaceconsisted of tower-like structures which were joined together by porticoes and gardens to form a single complex which also included artisan workshops where textiles (tiraz) and jewellery were produced.
PALATINE CHAPEL:This Chapel dedicated to Saint Peter brings together the Fatimid architectural expertise of the craftsmen who worked at King Roger’s court in Palermo, the sumptuous decoration of the Byzantine mosaics, the Christian faith of the Norman sovereigns and the splendour of Islamic culture which was still present in Palermo. The chapel was founded by Roger in the year of his coronation (1130), became a parish church two years later, as recorded by an inscription beneath the cupola, and was consecrated in 1140. The mosaics were completed in 1143. Within the royal palace, the Palatine Chapel functions as a centre of gravity, which is not easily perceivable today since a unifying façade has joined together the tower-shaped structures of the Norman palace. The hemispherical cupola of the chapel mustoriginally have stood out above the main block of the building with its walls adorned with blind arches.