(active 1140-70 in Palermo)

Sanctuary, view of the crossing and side arms

Cappella Palatina, Palermo

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 Cefalù'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.