Mosaics in the Ruggero Room at the Royal (or Norman) Palace
Between 1131 and 1154
King Ruggero (Roger) II.
The Ruggero Hall is located within the Gioaria Tower in the Norman Royal Palace, which was built on an old Roman and Byzantine complex and subsequently converted into a fortress during the period of Arab domination. During the 11th century, Robert Guiscard and Count Roger d’Altavilla (Ruggero I) took up residence here, and later Ruggero II ordered its embellishment and extension for use as a royal palace. It contains the Palatine Chapel and also used to house the Tiraz, the silk workshop set up by the Arabs in which King Ruggero’s celebrated cloak was made (dated 1133–4, Schatzkammer of Vienna).
The Ruggero Room, a rectangular space covered with a cross vault, contains exquisite mosaic decoration above a high marble plinth, dating from the regency of Guglielmo (William) I! (circa 1170). It covers the walls, lunettes, the undersides of the arches and the vault. Leopards, lions, harts, peacocks, centaurs and bowmen confront one another symmetrically amongst fruit trees and palms in the large lunettes. Spiral branches with leaves and flowers entwine the decorative elements of the vault, interrupted only by geometric bands (at the crossing points) and the medallions with lions and griffins. The Swabian eagle, within an octagon at the centre of the vault, dominates the composition, while the double-headed eagle appears on the keystones of the minor arches. The entire decorative structure is laid out on a single tessera background with gold leaf.
Thought to be the work of mosaicists trained in Byzantium, the iconographic themes of the mosaic cycle show clear eastern influence, more Persian and Seljuq than Arabic, as a result of the osmosis between the Islamic and Byzantine worlds.
The Room of Ruggero (Roger) in the Torre Gioaria in the royal Norman palace is richly decorated with mosaics which date to the period of the regency of Guglielmo (William) II (circa 1170). Thought to be the work of craftsmen trained in Byzantium, the mosaic cycle depicts iconographic themes with a clear eastern influence, possibly Persian or Seljuq rather than Arabic, arising from the exchanges between the Islamic and Byzantine worlds.
From historical and documentary sources.
Calandra, R., La Manna, A., Scuderi, V. and Malignaggi, D., Palazzo dei Normanni, Palermo, 1991.
Siculo-Norman Art: Islamic Culture in Medieval Sicily, pp.126–9.
Pier Paolo Racioppi "Mosaics in the Ruggero Room at the Royal (or Norman) Palace" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;it;Mon01;17;en
Prepared by: Pier Paolo RacioppiPier Paolo Racioppi
Laureato e specializzato in storia dell'arte presso l'Università di Roma “La Sapienza” sta conseguendo il dottorato di ricerca in Storia e conservazione dell'oggetto d'arte e d'architettura presso l'Università di Roma TRE. Ha svolto attività seminariali presso l'Istituto di Storia dell'Arte all'Università La Sapienza di Roma e attualmente è docente di storia dell'arte del Rinascimento presso la IES at Luiss (Roma).
Ha pubblicato diversi contributi sulla tutela artistica, il collezionismo e le accademie d'arte, ed ha collaborato al Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani dell'Enciclopedia Treccani.
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: IT 17
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Normans in Sicily | Royal Art and Architecture
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