Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sicily: The Church Tour in Palermo

Imagine my delight
when at our pow wow on the first morning in one of the sumptuous intimate lounges of the hotel where the group was staying, that Judy had arranged to have an historical expert guide us through the churches as an introduction to the city of Palermo. We were ushered to the car and found ourselves quickly at the Palatine Chapel, a delightful 12th century gem which envelopes Byzantine, Islamic, and Romanesque architectural elements in an eclectic mix of architectural style unique to Sicily. The church is accessed through a courtyard in the old Norman fortress.

The expert talked us through the many aspects of Norman and Islamic craft influences at the time, and the multicultural quality of their society at the time this chapel was built. She pointed out some of the symbolism in material as well as imagery, in the colors, the tile work, the materials, in addition to the stories, parables, and scenes portrayed on every possible surface, everywhere. It was like walking into a big 3 dimensional icon.

We were being ushered through in groups, and our experience there was so rich I could barely contain my joy. Judy said that the tour on that first day would be to give us a taste, whereas we might want to come back during a free time and spend an afternoon or day there, examining details that captured our fancy. I feel like this is the kind of place where I could spend a week or a month. There was just so much to see in this one church. If you are young and studying architecture or art history, I urge you to go to Sicily and spend some time in this chapel. There is plenty of material that has not yet been deciphered.

We continued our tour following the expert past many interesting scenes through to the Palermo cathedral.

This cathedral was interesting because of the numerous additions and work that has been completed throughout the centuries. Walking around to the back of the cathedral, it didn't even look like the same building!

Our last stop on the church route for that morning was the little San Cataldo church, dating also to the 12th century.

After a morning of walking, learning, craning our necks, we went to the soup doctor, Casa del Brodo.

Antipasto consisted of: stuffed eggplants, peppers, sardines or anchovies wrapped around stuffing, grilled pumkin, grilled oyster mushrooms, grilled button mushrooms, peppers, cheeses, olives of various kinds. I enjoyed a delicious house specialty of a smooth fava bean veloute. It was delicious! Next stop: Monreale!

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Blogger christine said...

I feel like I went with you on this trip. I think I just did! What a feast for the eyes. That cathedral is gorgeous and that antipasto made me drool !!

9:17 AM, October 15, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucy-thanks so much for sharing all the details and wonderful photos of this trip-I really want to be part of this group, but since I was in Italy for 6 weeks earlier this year there was no way I could go...

4:54 PM, October 15, 2008  

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