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Photo of Palatine Chapel and Royal Palace

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Visit Palatine Chapel and Royal Palace

The Royal Palace with its stunning Palatine Chapel, or Cappella Palatina in Italian, is situated on the edge of the historic centre of Palermo near to the cathedral. These are part of the Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedrals of Cefalu and Monreale UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Explore the Palatine Chapel and Royal Palace

Sicily Visitor comment: Guy de Maupassant described the Palatine Chapel as 'the most beautiful that exists in the world, the most stupendous religious jewel cherished by human thought and executed by a master hand' and we are inclined to agree!

It is a good idea to turn up early for your visit to the Royal Palace and be prepared to queue both for a ticket and to get through the security at the entrance. Do not let this put you off, a visit to the Palatine Chapel is a highlight to your visit to Palermo and indeed one of the main highlights of a visit to Sicily.

Palatine Chapel

The Chapel was ordered by King Roger II following his coronation in 1130. It is a mix of Byzantine, Islamin and Latin elements and it is decorated with the most wonderful Byzantine mosaics. The dome and central apse is decorated with an image of Christ Pantocrator and to the right are the oldest mosaics which illustrate important biblical events from the Gospels.

In the aisles are mosaics probably added under the direction of William I and showing events from the lives of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and key events from the Old Testament such as Noah's Arc and the story of Adam and Eve.

Also to note is the muqarnas ceiling created by Moorish craftsmen, it is quite beautiful though eclipsed by the splendor of the golden mosaics. There is also a notable marble candelabra at the pulpit.

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The Palatine Chapel is the reason to visit the Royal Palace but the in the rest of the palacethe Royal Apartments have some interesting rooms and treasures to explore. The Hercules Hall is where the Regional Assembly of Sicily meet and is decorated with paintings of Hercules. The Viceroy Hall is home to paintings of viceroys and presidents of the Bourbon kingdom of Sicily and the Pompeian Hall has a neoclassical style and paintings of mythological figures.

A Chinese Hall was painted in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries when oriental styles were in fashion around Europe. Perhaps the most important rooms though are the Winds Hall in an Arab-Norman tower of the building with with a lovely 18th century wooden ceiling and Roger Hall with more beautiful mosaics commissioned by William I (son of Roger II).  The pictures are for the most part pictures of wild animals and hunting scenes and so vary from the biblical pictures of the chapel.

Royal Palace

Also to visit is the Maqueda Courtyard with its three rows of arcades and the Duke of Monalto Halls covered in seventeenth century frescoes.

The Royal Palce started out as an Arab fortress and in 1072 when the Normans arrived in Palermo extensions and reconstructions transformed the fortress into a royal palace. The courts of Roger II, William I and William II were all centred here. Frederick II of Swabia did not live here as an adult but organized cultural and administrative events here but then the palace was largely abandoned until the 16th century when new architectural elements were added including the two main courtyards.

You can also visit the gardens of the Royal palce with flowerbeds and subtropical trees.

Where to visit nearby?

Palermo itself is a fascinating city and at its heart at the Piazza Ballini are three more magnificent churches. Here there is an Arab Norman church, a Baroque church and La Martorana with a mix of Byzantine and Baroque decoration.

If like us you have fallen for Byzantine mosaics in a big way be sure to also visit the nearby Monreale catheral which is up the hill above Palermo and Cefalu cathedral in the lovely seaside town of Cefalu to the east of Palermo.

You can find more local travel ideas in the North Sicily guide,

See also: 

Photos of Palatine Chapel and Royal Palace

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Map of Palatine Chapel and Royal Palace and places to visit

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Palatine Chapel and Royal Palace places to visit

Palermo

Palermo

Palermo is a fabulous city with the Cappella Palatina, La Martorana and its Arab-Norman cathedral amongst the highlights.

Palermo guide
Monreale

Monreale

Monreale is a small town which sits above Palermo and has a splendid Byzantine cathedral.

Monreale guide
Bagheria

Bagheria

Bagheria is a coastal town with some beautiful 18th century villas.

Bagheria guide
Carini

Carini

Carini is a well known shopping destination in Sicily and has a castle and attractive old centre.

Carini guide
Cefala Diana

Cefala Diana

Cefala Diana has a castle and Arab baths to visit.

Cefala Diana guide
Termini-Imerese

Termini-Imerese

Termini-Imerse has both Greek and Roman ruins to visit.

Termini-Imerese guide
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