Every surface in the Cappella Palatina in Palermo (1140-70) is a pristine work of art. Study the ceiling, the floor, and of course, at the mosaics. Don’t be rushed. This is what happens when great cultures—Arab, Norman and Byzantine–combine synergistically to produce the finest art imaginable. It was created for Sicilian kings to worship in, with classic Byzantine architecture of apses, pointed arches and a small dome. The painted Arabic wooden ceiling is even more beautiful and well-crafted than than anything I saw at Alhambra. I’m not exaggerating with all these superlatives: look at the pictures, then go see it for yourself.
P.S. You’ll want to know your Bible stories before visiting this chapel. Just in case you don’t, I’ve provided some cliff notes.
How we got to Palermo: train from Naples.
Where we slept: Ariston Hotel b&b. Price: €55 for a double. Recommended: yes.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. (If you’ve ever wondered what that would look like, here ya go).
Then God created some super-awesome trees and water that looks like spaghetti, and he saw that it was good.
And then God made Adam and Eve (but who knows why he gave them belly buttons). They get into some trouble with a snake.
Sodom and Gomorrah: sin city going down.
Noah shoves a lamb out of the ark.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Young Frankenstein.
Ye olde Christ Pantocrator, with some neoclassical peeps hanging out below.
Whoa–what’s up with the placement of the knot on your robe Jesus? But seriously, the painted wooden muquarnas ceiling in the chapel is a masterpiece that defies description.
Paul preaches that Jesus is the son of God and gets in big trouble and has to escape in a basket. Ha, showed you suckas!