03 03 2014 Back
Just off the three-tiered loggia of Palazzo dei Normanni is Palermo's premier tourist attraction, the Cappella Palatina (tel 091 705 48 79; - 9am11.45am & 3-5pm Mon-Fri, 9am-11.45am Sat & Sun), designed by Roger 11 in 1130. With every inch of its bijoux interior inlaid with precious marbles and exquisite mosaics (coloured glass onto which gold leaf has been applied) the chapel! has a jewel-like quality, and the mosaics are incredibly sophisticated, capturing expressions, detail and movement with extraordinary grace and delicacy.
The bulk of the mosaics recount the tales of the Old Testament, but other scenes recall Palermo's pivotal role in the Crusades, an ironic reference given the fact that the chapel was decorated by Muslim artists. The wooden muqarnas (stalactite) ceiling - unique in a Christian church - is a masterpiece of honeycomb carving.
This is one of the busiest tourist sites in Palermo so be prepared to queue. Once in possession of your ticket you will have to queue once again outside the chapel as minders limit the number of people. The whole process is often badly managed, but don't let yourself be hurried through one of Sicily's finest sights.