Mosaics in the Cappella Palatina, Palermo (1140-70)

The Cappella Palatina was built by Roger II, king of Sicily. It was the second important church erected at the initiative of the king, its construction began in 1132, a year after the laying of the cornerstone of Cefalů's cathedral. It was consecrated in 1140, and the execution of the extensive mosaic decor, covering the entire interior, began after that date.

The palace chapel is a blend of Roman and Greek building types. To the east of its three-aisle nave is a sanctuary consisting of a central space topped by a cupola, two transepts, a main apse with a preceding bay, and two secondary apses. This eastern section is wholly in conformity with middle Byzantine sacred architecture. Only this portion has vaulting; the three aisle of the nave have richly structured and painted wooden ceilings. The mosaic decor, which was completed only during the reign of Roger II's successors, William I and William II, completely covers the upper portions of the walls.

Like the architecture, the pictorial program in the chapel's sanctuary is essentially Byzantine in character. The chapel's oldest mosaics, and the ones of highest quality both artistically and in terms of technique, are the ones in the cupola and its drum. According to an inscription, these must have been completed in 1143. The central motif in the cupola is a Christ Pantocrator, surrounded by eight angels.

While the pictorial program in the sanctuary is essentially Byzantine in character, this is not the case in the nave, whose mosaic decor consists of two pictorial cycles. The Old Testament cycle, which runs along the side walls of the centre aisle in two registers, follows in the tradition of Roman church decoration. It begins on the south wall, next to the crossing, with the story of the Creation, and ends on the north wall with scenes from the life of Jacob. The second cycle extends across both of the side-aisle walls: the stories of apostles Peter and Paul are related in fourteen panels, some of them containing two scenes.

Preview Picture Data Info
Sanctuary, view of the main apse
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Sanctuary, view of the main apse
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Sanctuary, view of the crossing and nave
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Sanctuary, view of the crossing and main apse
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Sanctuary, view of the crossing and side arms
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Sanctuary, main apse calotte (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Sanctuary, west wall
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Sanctuary, south wall
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Sanctuary, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Sanctuary, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Sanctuary, south side arm, east wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Sanctuary, south side arm, east wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, south side aisle (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, centre aisle, north wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, centre aisle, north wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, centre aisle, north wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, centre aisle, north wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo


Nave, north side aisle (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo



Summary of Italian mosaics
Mosaics in Rome
San Clemente | Santa Maria in Trastevere | Santa Maria Maggiore
Mosaics in Sicily
Cathedral of Cefalů | Cappella Palatina, Palermo | Cathedral of Monreale
Mosaics in Venice
Basilica di San Marco
Mosaics in Florence
Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistery)
Other mosaics
9th-12th centuries | 13th-14th centuries
Mosaicists
RUSUTI, Filippo | TORRITI, Jacopo | CAVALLINI, Pietro
CIMABUE | GIOTTO | GIAMBONO, Michele | ANDREA DEL CASTAGNO



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