Sicily and Arab-Norman Palermo: A World Heritage with Valentina Bruschi

Sicily and Arab-Norman Palermo: A World Heritage with Valentina Bruschi


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Medieval Palermo was characterized by the Arab rule which gave magnificent palaces, mosques, minarets, and gardens to the city. Then, the Normans took possession of this splendor. Today, the heritage of these two cultures are intertwined and indistinguishable, creating the so-called Arab-Norman style. This conversation will trace the history of the Sicilian capital as we trace its historical, religious, and cultural roots with an art historian.

Located on the northern coast of Sicily, Arab-Norman Palermo includes a series of nine civil and religious structures dating from the era of the Norman kingdom of Sicily (1130-1194): two palaces, three churches, a cathedral, a bridge, as well as the cathedrals of Cefalú and Monreale. In 2015, these nine monuments were designated together as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Collectively, they are an example of a social-cultural syncretism between Western, Islamic, and Byzantine cultures on the island which gave rise to a unique, hybrid visual and architectural style known as Arab-Norman. They also bear testimony to the fruitful coexistence of people of different origins and religions (Muslim, Byzantine, Latin, Jewish, Lombard, and French).

Palermo wears its history on its sleeve: after the final crumbling of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, Sicily passed under the control of the Goths, then the Byzantines. In the middle of the 9th century, the Arabs invaded the island and, within 100 years, Sicily was entirely theirs. We’ll learn about how the Arabs influenced the island profoundly in various ways, from cuisine to architecture to dialect. We’ll explore the defeat of the Arab domination in 1060 with the Normans conquest. Instead of doing away with Arab culture that had rooted itself in the island, Roger I and his son Roger II, awed by the splendor and sophistication of the Arabic and Byzantine arts and architecture on the island, decided to basically assimilate. Imposing Christianity nominally as the state religion in the island, the Norman Kings nevertheless promulgated religious tolerance and ruled over a surprisingly multi-ethnic, multi-religious population. We’ll discuss how this assimilation and toleration were achieved under Norman rule as we look at architectural examples and hear histories from the period.

Join art historian Valentina Bruschi as she takes us through some of the renowned buildings of Arab-Norman Palermo that still today celebrate the grandeur of the history of that period of the city. This is a wonderful conversation for those who have already been to Palermo or for whom it might be on their bucket list.

Valentina took her degree in Art History in Rome, her home town, and has been working as an art critic and curator in Palermo for the past twenty years. In Sicily she has combined her work of writing and curatorship with her passion for history, territory, and tradition, obtaining her license as an official tour guide which enables her to share her passion for the island to all those who wish to learn more about it.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 13 reviews
62%
(8)
23%
(3)
15%
(2)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
C
C.
Fascinating Presentation
R
R.S.
Terrific introduction to city we want to visit!
E
E.W.
Wish I were in Palermo
B
B.
Palermo
S
S.G.
Very informative!

Customer Reviews

Based on 13 reviews
62%
(8)
23%
(3)
15%
(2)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
C
C.
Fascinating Presentation
R
R.S.
Terrific introduction to city we want to visit!
E
E.W.
Wish I were in Palermo
B
B.
Palermo
S
S.G.
Very informative!