Photograph: Sandro ScaliaPhotograph: Sandro Scalia

Name of Monument:

Qanat (inside the Psychiatric Hospital)


Palermo, Italy

Date of Monument:

12th century

Period / Dynasty:



Qanats are underground drainage channels that collect aquifer water and bear it from considerable depths to within a few metres of ground level. The qanats discovered in Palermo are of the Arab-Persian type, but differ from their Eastern counterparts in that they are not fed by a real well, but by a transversal drainage gallery located upstream.
This network of underground channels, which extends over tens of kilometres, ensured a continuous and spontaneous supply of water from the underground aquifer to the surface, making it possible to construct fishponds, fountains and public baths and to water the lush gardens described in medieval sources.

View Short Description

In the ground beneath Palermo there is a network of drainage channels that carry aquifer water from significant depths up to ground level. These complex Arabo-Persian-inspired hydraulic engineering works are known as the qanat, and they guaranteed the continuous and spontaneous flow of water from underground aquifers to the surface.

How Monument was dated:

The discovery of ceramic fragments from the 12th and 13th centuries in two qanats in the central area of the Piana dei Colli (Castelforte and Scalea I) confirm their existence in Sicily from that time at least.

Selected bibliography:

Todaro, P., Guida di Palermo Sotterranea, Palermo, 2002.
Siculo-Norman Art: Islamic Culture in Medieval Sicily, pp.103–104; pp.105–106.

Citation of this web page:

Pier Paolo Racioppi "Qanat (inside the Psychiatric Hospital)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021.;ISL;it;Mon01;7;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 07


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Islamic Dynasties / Period


Siculo–Norman period

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