The  Normans'  Royal  Palace 

Chronology  Of  The  Normans'  Palace
7C BC – Punic settlement and fortress (from literary sources and remains of earlier stonework).
254 BC – The fortress is conquered by the Romans.
535 AD – Belisarius conquers the city, which remains for about three centuries under Byzantine rule.
831 – The Arabs conquer Palermo and occupy the Palace, which becomes the Emirs’ residence.
1072 – Norman conquest. The fortress becomes the Norman Palace and is transformed and enriched.
1130 – Roger II erects the Palatine Chapel.
1195 – Henry IV of Swabia begins the Swabian dynasty of Sicily.
1220-30 – Frederick II founds the “Sicilian School of Poetry” in the Palace.
1282 – Peter of Aragon occupies the Palace after the expulsion of the Angevins.
Afterwards the Normal Palace is only discontinuously inhabited by the Viceroys. After 1500 it undergoes considerable restoration work and alterations, up to the expulsion of the Bourbons in 1799.

Normans' Palace - Audiences' Hall -

Normans' Palace - Audiences' Hall -

Palais des Normands en 1847

The  Normans' Palace in 1847

Palatine Chapel: This scene from a glittering gilded mosaic depicts the Flight into Egypt. The Virgin Mary is riding a white donkey; ahead of her, Joseph is carring young Jesus on his shoulders, holding his leg, while the young boy is hanging onto his father’s hair to keep his balance. Behind them is a figure that the Protoevangelium of St James identified as young James, the child Joseph had from his first marriage, holding a whip in his right hand and a poor bundle in the left.


The portico on the first floor of the Maqueda

The portico on the first floor of the Maqueda courtyard leading to the Palatine Chapel, with Egyptian granite columns, the original external structure of the Palatine Chapel

Because of its historical and artistic significance, the Norman Palace is one of the greatest monuments in Palermo. In the 9C, the Arabs structured and fortified the “Qasr” as a castle, on the site of a pre-existing Punic-Roman stronghold. After 1130 (when Roger II was crowned King of Sicily) the Normans extended and strengthened the original building with towers and bastions, making it the main fortress in the city and a sumptuous royal palace. In which the political and economic life of the State was administered until the death of Frederick II of Swabia. Under Frederick, the Palace also became a centre of civilisation and culture of European dimension. The Palatine Chapel, indeed a religious jewel, was built by Roger II, who wanted it to be incorporated inside the Palace. Begun in 1130, the Chapel was consecrated in 1143 and dedicated to St. Peter. From the late 13C, after the end of the Norman-Swabian dynasty, the political and economic life in Sicily began to decline and the Palace lost its importance as a political and administrative centre. In fact, it was abandoned and neglected until the 15C, the only exception being the Palatine Chapel that continued to be looked after by the clergy in charge of it. Under the Spanish viceroys, in the second half of the 16C, the building became once again a royal residence and underwent considerable alterations. The Norman towers were demolished and the present imposing façade was built, together with the spacious internal courtyards: the 17C Maqueda courtyard, in the middle of the triple portico with limestone arches, and the so-called “fountain” courtyard. The most obvious traces of the Norman period are Torre Pisana (the Pisan tower), Roger’s Room in the Joaria and the Palatine Chapel. Since the post-war period the Norman Palace has been the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly.

Roger’s Room in the Joaria, the part of the Palace where Norman and Swabian kings used to spend long hours of recreation and relax, surrounded by the royal court and by scientists, poets and distinguished men-at-arms and statesmen. Here Frederick II, a poet himself, gathered the most talented personalities of the time, giving impetus to the Sicilian School of Poetry where, as acknowledged by Dante, the first poems in the Italian language were written. The gilded mosaics decorating the room depict figures of birds, swans, peacocks, deer, lions, leopards and centaurs. The fine mosaic cycle was started under Roger but completed during the reign of William I known as the Good.

The "Roger’s Room"

The "Roger’s Room" with its mosaic decorations, revealing the eastern figurative tradition of Arab craftsmen, who left their evocative artistic and scenographic imprints.

Rooms of the Winds

The "Sala dei Venti" (Rooms of the Winds), leading to King Roger’s Room in the Joaria tower.