Postcards from Italy
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Sicily's Stunning Mosaics

Italy is home to a number of important Byzantine mosaic masterpieces, most famously in Rome's Church of Santa Cecilia, Venice's Basilica of Saint Mark, and San Vitale and Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna. The extent of the Byzantine Empire was not limited to mainland Italy in the 6th century AD, however, but extended across the Strait of Messina to include Sicily, as well.

monreale-sicily-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Byzantine influences can be seen in some of the most stunning Norman churches in Sicily, and breathtaking mosaics decorate a number of churches and cathedrals in and around Palermo. The most famous of these are in the Cathedral of Monreale, home to the largest cycle of Byzantine mosaics in Italy. The interior of this imposing Norman church is almost entirely covered with ornate mosaics, and it is estimated that craftsmen from Constantinople used over 2,200 kilograms of gold to make the 100 million tessarae (individual tiles) featured in these magnificent works.

monreale-sicily-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

monreale-sicily-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

monreale-sicily-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Just as opulent, if less extensive, are the mosaics decorating the Cappella Palatina, the royal chapel of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily in Palermo's Palazzo Reale. Not just an artistic masterpiece, the chapel is also a symbol of Sicily's cross-cultural heritage, combining Norman, Arabic and Byzantine styles in the architecture and mosaics. Craftsmen of different religious traditions worked alongside each other when creating the interior mosaics.

cappella-palatina-palermo-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

cappella-palatina-palermo-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Also worth noting in Palermo is La Martorana, or Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio, which has a spectacularly decorated interior featuring a series of 12th century mosaics that were created, like those in Monreale and the Cappella Palatina, by Byzantine craftsmen.

old-new-la-martorana-palermo-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

mosaic-detail-cappella-palatina-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Related posts:
Ravenna
48 Hours: Venezia (Venice)
Caravaggio in Sicily

Contributor: Rebecca Winke

Concierge in Umbria
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