Power & Glory

Within the main city of Palermo it seems every district and more has a church. A small listing can be found at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churches_in_Palermo .

We did not visit all of them (although it felt like it 😀) but here are a few of the highlights.

Although each has its own story, returning to the Norman influence in the 11th century,  Roger had ideas of his own about who should hold religious power in the island. One might call it a Henry VIII complex, but he was 200-300 years ahead of that time.

This continued into the following generations, as he had established his own dynasty and his heirs were now kings in their own right – perhaps surpassing their family position back in Normandy.  So by the time his grandson William came along it was time to up the stakes. One story is that William sought permission from the pope in Rome to sanction a new cathedral, and when refused, he sought out a different pope (there seemed to be competing popes at times) who did sanction his wishes. And with support of Benedictin monk he set out to build one to rival Cefalù.

Legend has it that William II Had a vision of this cathedral in a dream when, during a hunting expedition, he fell asleep under a carob tree. While slumbering, the Virgin Mary appeared to him, indicating where a treasure chest was located — and with this loot he was to build a church in her honor.

Legends aside, the real motives , and financing, that led William to build a new church were dictated by supremacy: The struggle between temporal and secular power was ever-present. It is the last — and the greatest — of the series of Arabo-Norman cathedrals with Byzantine interiors. 

And he’s was not shy to ensure images in the church supported his position as being blessed by Christ himself.

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But despit all this  gold and silver other churches prove even more interesting as being truly unique even without the history or glitter.  One in particular is the small Byzantine near the city hall.  With its three domes, it stands out  as different, and  though simple, has an impact beyond its size when you enter its relatively tiny interior.

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