The Palatine Chapel in Palermo’s Palace of the Normans was built between 1130 and 1144 by the king of Sicily, Roger II (1095-1154). He was an educated man, raised at the court of the Altavilla family, taught by Latin, Greek, and Arab tutors. He was also a pugnacious man, who spent most of his reign – lasting from 1130 to 1154 – fighting to maintain or extend his power over unruly dignitaries, rebellious relatives, popes, and emperors.
The Norman king’s cosmopolitan education is clearly reflected in the variety of relations he cultivated at court – where erudite men of every possible ethnicity gathered over the years – as well as in this splendid, colorful chapel, where Islamic motifs and paintings, Byzantine mosaics, and sculptures by artists of the Latin culture coexist in harmony.
For nine centuries, this wonder has been protected by the blessings bestowed by the Christ Pantrocrator – that is “ruler over everything”, “almighty” – portrayed in the dome.
Roger II apparently knew whom to thank for his earthly power.