Hammam (Arab Baths)
Cefalà Diana, Italy
Fatimid / Norman
There is no definite data on the date of construction. It has been suggested that construction first started during the Hellenistic-Roman period (outer wall) and then continued during the period of Arab domination (the columns of the dividing partition) and the Norman period (stringcourse). It has also been suggested that it is an entirely Norman building on the basis of structural similarities with other buildings from the reign of Guglielmo (William) II.
The hammam (Arab Baths) is a few kilometres outside Palermo in the municipality of Cefalà Diana. The building consists of an internal room measuring 11 m. by 7.5 m. covered by a slightly pointed barrel vault 7.5 m. high. The room is divided into two distinct areas separated by a partition with three pointed arches. The columns of the partition are a Corinthian variation with chalice-shaped terracotta capitals. The smaller room, next to the hot water spring, has one bath and the larger room has three, each lower than the last, ensuring a variety of water temperatures. The walls contained niches to store personal effects and the vault had vents to allow the stream to escape. The underground system of channels used to fill and empty the baths is still partially visible immediately around the baths.
Outside, a kufic inscription, now very deteriorated, runs along the frieze on at least three of the four sides.
The Arab Baths are found just a few kilometres from Palermo and are fed by naturally hot spring water. The building consists of an inner room measuring 11 m by 7.5 m divided into two distinct areas by a partition wall and housing a series of baths of different temperatures. On the outside of the building there is a much-deteriorated inscription in kufic characters. Recent research leads us to believe that the building dates back to Norman times.
Through architectural analysis of different parts of the building.
Bellafiore, G., Architettura in Sicilia nell’età Islamica e Normanna (827–1190), Palermo, 1990.
La Bua, G. and Truzzolino, T., Cefalà Diana nella Storia e nell’Arte, Palermo, 1999, pp.9–24.
Ryolo, D., “I Bagni di Cefalà Diana”, Sicilia Archeologica, IV, 15, 1971, pp.19–32.
Siculo-Norman Art: Islamic Culture in Medieval Sicily, pp.119–20.
Pier Paolo Racioppi "Hammam (Arab Baths)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;it;Mon01;9;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 09
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Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Women | The Private Lives of Muslim Women The Normans in Sicily | Islamicised Communities Before and After the Norman Conquest Water | Water Usage: Drinking and Washing
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