Palermo, Sicily


The Cappella Palatina


Photographs by Rolf Gross, 2003


The Capella Palatina was built by the Norman King Roger II  between 1130 and 43 as his private chapel. This golden cave is a wonder of Byzantine mosaic art, Arabic intarsia, and Norman architecture. The mosaics were made by craftsmen from Constantinople.




A view into the left, short arm of a transept which is crowned by a dome.





The mosaic in the dome shows Christ Pantocrator surrounded by archangels according to the mystical, neo-platonic visions of Dionysius Areopagitus. Similar depictions of the Pantocrator among archangels also appear in the Battisterio in Florence, the church in Ossos Loukas in Greece, and in the Norman cathedral in Cefalu, all before 1150. 





The right cross-nave shows scenes of the life of Christ according to the Eastern Orthodox Canon, e.g., Christ’s Metamorphosis on Mt. Tabor next to his Baptism, the Entry in Jerusalem, and the Nativity





The mosaics on the side walls depict the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul to whom the chapel was dedicated.




On the southwestern end-wall of the nave Christ in Majesty appears between St. Peter (left) and Paul, an unusual arrangement. In Eastern Orthodoxy Christ would be flanked by Mary and St. John the Baptist. The inscriptions are in Latin  -  not in Greek – except for the canonical Greek letters right and left of Christ.




The deeds of St. Peter on the right side-wall of the nave. Above the arches themes of the Old Testament are shown.



Note:  good photographs that do justice to the gold mosaics of the Palatine Chapel are rare. These were made with a Canon G3 (f:2,  1/15 sec) free-hand in the ambient light, of course, without a flash.  Their use for non-commercial applications is unrestricted. The photographer would appreciate a reference to their location, e.g.,

Photos by Rolf Gross,